The People's Perspective on Medicine

Show 162: In Memory of Oliver Sacks

We offer a delightful interview from our archive to honor the memory of Oliver Sacks.
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In Memory of Oliver Sacks

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Dr. Oliver Sacks was much more than a neurologist. In his books, he invited us to imagine the world from wildly different perspectives than our own. When he described individuals with neurological differences (that would be termed “deficits” by most doctors and other people), he helped his readers recognize the special gifts these people were able to mobilize and appreciate their humanity. He died on August 30, 2015, and he is missed.

Oliver Sacks as Author:

Many people are familiar with his best-known books, especially Awakenings, which was made into a popular movie starring Robin Williams as Dr. Oliver Sacks. Other popular titles included The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, An Anthropologist on Mars and Musicophilia. Many years ago, we interviewed him on the topic of a lesser-known work, The Island of the Colorblind. Like all his books, it is captivating.

We offer our listeners this fascinating interview in memory of Oliver Sacks. It was originally broadcast on February 22, 1997.

This Week’s Guest:

Oliver Sacks was a neurologist and author. (His medical degree, BM Ch, was conferred by The Queen’s College, Oxford.) He practiced and taught at New York University School of Medicine and Columbia University.

Dr. Sacks wrote thought-provoking essays for The Atlantic, The New Yorker, The New York Times and other publications. His best-selling books include Awakenings (1973), The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat (1985), Seeing Voices: A Journey into the World of the Deaf (1989), An Anthropologist on Mars (1995), Uncle Tungsten: Memories of a Chemical Boyhood (2001), Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain (2007), The Mind’s Eye (2010) and Hallucinations (2012). The book we discussed with him was The Island of the Colorblind (1997). His autobiography, On the Move, was published this year (2015).

Listen to the Podcast:

The podcast of this program will be available the Monday after the broadcast date. The show can be streamed online from this site and podcasts can be downloaded for free for four weeks after the date of broadcast. After that time has passed, digital downloads are available for $2.99. CDs may be purchased at any time after broadcast for $9.99.

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photo credit:Dan Lurie cc license 2.0, original photo modified.

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.” .
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I have long admired Dr, Sacks and found his book Hallucinations helpful in understanding my ocular migraines involving colors ans movement.

What a wonderful interview! Thank you for retrieving it from your archive and running it in honor of the brilliant Dr. Sacks.

I am fascinated by the field of medical anthropology and hope you will consider doing more interviews in this arena. Thinking like a medical anthropologist, one could make an observation about Dr. Sacks himself: If you listen carefully, one can hear that the shortness of breath he suffered so greatly from in his last years was already apparent back in the 1990s in your interview. A clue is to be found in the wet bathing suit he brought to your studio: people who swim regularly are exposed to a great deal of chlorine, a toxic halogen, which is absorbed transdermally, through the skin. It may have created a magnesium deficiency, which could also help to explain the migraines he suffered from. Interestingly, the low levels of magnesium in the water on Guam may have combined with the problem of the “anti-nutrients” in those plants they were eating to make the problem worse than either (plant or magnesium deficiency) would have been on their own.

Please consider doing a show sometime about the issue of anti-nutrients in plants, such as lectins, phytates, and oxalic acid. These are even in foods that are otherwise “healthy,” and exist because plants, like animals, have means of self-defense, since they don’t dream of growing up to become your salad or soup! The lectins in the castor bean plant are the most toxic of all, and make the deadly toxin, “ricin,” even though the oil from the castor plant (castor oil) has medicinal properties. Thank you again for the wonderful show honoring Dr. Sacks — his books are stellar.

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