Neurologist and "Awakenings" author Oliver Sacks

Neurologist and "Awakenings" author Oliver Sacks

Image: Oliver Sacks Oliver Sacks, the noted neurologist and author of "Awakenings" and "The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat," will appear on Wednesday, Oct. 26, at 8 p.m. at Fairfield University. Sacks' talk, "Alzheimer's and the Preservation of Self," is the inaugural lecture of a new annual School of Nursing lecture series and is part of Open VISIONS Forum, a program of University College.

Celebrating its 35th anniversary this year, the Fairfield University School of Nursing created a new Advisory Board and the lecture series as part of a four-year plan for growth. The series is funded by a $37,000 challenge grant from the McKeen Fund, which also granted $14,000 for the creation of the Advisory Board. Thanks to the generosity of Pfizer Inc., General Re Corporation, Wilton Meadows, friends and alumni, the challenge was met.

Both the lecture series and Advisory Board are expected to increase understanding of the nursing field and the role Fairfield University plays in educating nursing leaders and help the School address the shortage of nurses and nursing faculty and the evolving role of nurses in healthcare.

Born in 1933 to two London physicians, Sacks earned his medical degree at Queens College, Oxford. After a residency in neurology at UCLA, he moved to New York and, since 1965, he has been a clinical professor of neurology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, adjunct professor of neurology at New York University School of Medicine and a consultant neurologist to the Little Sisters of the Poor.

In 1966, Sacks began consulting for Beth Abraham Hospital in the Bronx, where he encountered an unusual group of patients caught in frozen states, unable to move. Recognizing them as survivors of a pandemic of "sleepy sickness" that swept the world from 1916 through 1927, he treated them with an experimental drug that brought them back to life. They became the subject of his acclaimed second book, "Awakenings," (Vintage Books, 1973), which inspired the Penny Marshal film of the same name starring Robin Williams and Robert DeNiro. Playwright Harold Pinter also used the story in "A Kind of Alaska."

Sacks is probably best known for "The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat," (Touchstone Books, 1985), a collection of case studies of people suffering from Tourette's Syndrome, autism, musical hallucination and other extraordinary maladies.

As a physician and writer, Sacks is interested in the ways people survive and adapt to neurological conditions and what their experiences can tell us about the mind. His nine books include "The Island of the Colorblind" (Vintage Books, 1997), "A Leg to Stand On" (Touchstone Books, 1984), and "Uncle Tungsten: Memories of a Chemical Boyhood" (Alfred A. Knopf, 2001). Many of his works are bestsellers used in the university setting in courses on neuroscience, writing, philosophy and ethics.

In 1989, Sacks received a Guggenheim Fellowship fro his work on what he calls the "neuroanthropology" of Tourette's Syndrome, a condition marked by involuntary speech and tics, and how its symptoms are perceived by different cultures.

Once called the "poet laureate of medicine," Sacks is a regular contributor to The New York Times Review of Books and The New Yorker, as well as several medical journals. He has received many honorary degrees and is an honorary fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the New York Academy of Sciences and Queen's College.

Posted On: 09-23-2005 10:09 AM

Volume: 38 Number: 43