Oliver Sacks , famous neurologist and renowned author of books such as “The Man Who Mistaken His Wife for a Hat” or “Awakenings”, died yesterday , August 30, 2015, at the age of 82 . Sacks had already announced in February of this year that he was in the terminal stage and that he had only a few months to live. The world is thus losing one of the best scientific communicators.
A death foretold but equally mourned among the entire scientific community
Sacks leaves us a legacy of inestimable quality in the form of popular literature about the functioning of the organs to which we owe the possibility of thinking, seeing and feeling.His dissertations about what he researched are almost indistinguishable from the parts in which he narrates experiences and reflections in situ.
This is reflected in his way of writing, which is direct and accessible to all audiences, but not exempt from philosophical questions that are outlined for the reader to try to answer. But Oliver Sacks’ quality goes far beyond his knowledge of neurology and his ability to speak in order to easily communicate ideas and concepts that are as fascinating as they are complicated, or his way of posing intellectual challenges to motivate the reader and make him or her want to know more.
The vocation for the study of the human being is not the only thing reflected in his writings: it is also reflected, in a somewhat more veiled but equally manifest way, in his humanist heart, a force that moved him to love and appreciate the subjective, the private, the emotional and phenomenological, that which belongs to the people he studied and to which he could never have had access as a scientist.
Beyond the laws of science
Throughout his work, Oliver Sacks gave us many good examples of how to talk about disorders and illness with total respect for the patient. In the literature he has written, people who could be considered insane are portrayed with total humanity.
He did not write as if he were dissecting incomplete beings or absolutely different from the rest: eccentric men, women with unusual problems, but never people separated from humanity by an insurmountable gap. Oliver Sacks talks about these people to show how the human body works: what makes us equal, what works equally in each of us, without taking our eyes off the particularity of each human being but without emphasizing the differences.
That’s why his books are possibly the best way to learn about psychiatric illness and the rules that govern our brain without taking our eyes off what makes us capable of feeling, loving and experiencing. The human quality that emerges from the literature written by Oliver Sacks is difficult to find in the popularization of science, and even less so in that which speaks of the engine of our emotions and thoughts.