Noted neurologist Oliver Sacks to speak

Oliver SacksNeurologist Oliver Sacks, whose books include “The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat” and “Awakenings,” will address issues related to perception, memory, consciousness and creativity at 8 p.m. Tuesday, April 18, in the Hewitt Union ballroom. 

The speech will be a keynote lecture of SUNY Oswego’s Arts and Psychology series.

Sacks is a professor of neurology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, an adjunct professor of neurology at the New York University School of Medicine and a practicing physician. In addition to his books, he writes for the New Yorker and the New York Review of Books.

Sacks is perhaps most famous for his work with survivors of the “sleeping sickness,” a neurological disease that, by rendering its victims catatonic, killed millions across the globe from 1916 to 1927. In 1966 Sacks, then working as a consulting neurologist for Beth Abraham Hospital, met with a group of sleeping-sickness survivors who had been unable to initiate movement for four decades. By administrating an experimental drug, L-dopa, he was able to relieve symptoms of this disease, long believed untreatable.

In “Awakenings,” which chronicles his work at Beth Abraham, Sacks described the patients’ waking as having “an explosive quality, as of corks released from a great depth.”

“Awakenings” made the transition to film in 1990. The movie, which starred Robert De Niro and Robin Williams, was nominated for several Academy Awards, including best picture. A free screening of the film will take place at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 6, in Timepieces in Hewitt Union.

Sacks’ 1985 collection of case histories, “The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat,” tells the stories of patients struggling with Tourette syndrome, autism, Parkinsonism, phantom limb syndrome, schizophrenia, retardation, Alzheimer’s disease and hallucinations. In addition to “Awakenings” and “The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat,” Sacks’ books include “Migraine,” “A Leg to Stand On,” “Seeing Voices: A Journey Into the World of the Deaf,” “An Anthropologist on Mars” and “The Island of the Colorblind.” In 2001 he published a memoir, “Uncle Tungsten: Memories of a Chemical Boyhood,” which depicts his childhood fascination with chemistry while growing up in war-ravaged England.

Sacks’ address will culminate the Arts and Psychology series, an interdisciplinary exploration of creativity and perception that brought a number of guest lecturers and events to SUNY Oswego.

The April 18 lecture in the ballroom will be free and open to the public, but tickets are required for admission due to limited seating. Supplementary seating will be available upstairs in Bell Auditorium, Room 213 of Hewitt Union, via an audio-visual connection.

For more information, contact Tyler box office at 312-2141 or

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(Posted: Mar 29, 2006)