Awakenings

( 5 )

Overview

In the spring of 1969, the author initiated L-DOPA drug treatment for the post-encephalitic residents of Mount Carmel hospital. Many had been institutionalized since the great encephalitis lethargica (sleeping sickness) epidemic after the First World War. Most suffered from Parkinsonian akinesia so acute as to turn them into living statues. And nearly all responded to L-DOPA in ways that defied medical predictions - & changed their lives. In this classic account, which inspired the major motion picture ...

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Awakenings

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Overview

In the spring of 1969, the author initiated L-DOPA drug treatment for the post-encephalitic residents of Mount Carmel hospital. Many had been institutionalized since the great encephalitis lethargica (sleeping sickness) epidemic after the First World War. Most suffered from Parkinsonian akinesia so acute as to turn them into living statues. And nearly all responded to L-DOPA in ways that defied medical predictions - & changed their lives. In this classic account, which inspired the major motion picture Awakenings, the author tells how, one by one, each of the patients "exploded" into movement, speech, & the sudden desire to communicate their experiences, from their physiological sensations to their innermost hopes & fears. With compassion & insight, he tells each of their stories - & reveals what their insights teach us not only about medicine but also about the profound issues of human predicament & survival.

Case histories of victims of "sleeping sickness" & their recovery; basis for the recent film.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"One of the most beautifully composed and moving works of our time." —The Washington Post

"Compulsively readable. . . . Dr. Sacks writes beautifully and with exceptional subtlety and penetration into both the state of mind of his patients and the nature of illness generally. . . . A brilliant and humane book." —A. Alvarez, The Observer

"[Sacks] opens to the reader doors of perception generally passed through only by those at the far borders of human experience." —The Boston Globe

"A masterpiece." —W. H. Auden

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780375704055
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 10/28/1999
  • Edition description: REPRINT
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 464
  • Sales rank: 119,844
  • Product dimensions: 5.17 (w) x 7.98 (h) x 0.91 (d)

Meet the Author

Oliver Sacks
Oliver Sacks lives in New York City.

Biography

"I think writing and language are not just to articulate or communicate, but they are also to investigate," the writer and neurologist Oliver Sacks once said. "For me, writing and medicine, writing and science, are not separate: they entail each other." Sacks grew up in a large and prodigiously gifted family of scientists; with their encouragement, he set up his own chemistry lab and spent his days in a swirl of sulfurous fumes and smoke. He was also fascinated by biographies, and spent hours poring over the lives of great scientists like Dmitri Mendeleev, Humphrey Davy,and Marie Curie. When the chaos of World War II and traumatic experiences at boarding school intruded on the "lyrical, mystical perceptions" of Sacks' childhood, he clung to scientific knowledge as a means of ordering and understanding the universe.

After his medical training at Oxford, Sacks migrated to the States to pursue a career in neurology research. But he made a clumsy lab researcher. "I was always dropping things or breaking things," he explained in a lecture, "and eventually they said: 'Get out! Go work with patients. They're less important.'" Sacks went to work at Beth Abraham Hospital in the Bronx, where he was struck by the sight of patients who had survived encephalitis lethargica, the "sleeping sickness." The patients were nearly immobile, but the nurses who cared for them insisted that there were living personalities behind the frozen masks, and Sacks believed the nurses. The story of his work with these patients is told in Sacks' 1973 book Awakenings, which inspired a movie starring Robin Williams and Robert DeNiro and also formed the basis of a play by Harold Pinter.

But Sacks is perhaps best known for his collections of case histories (The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, An Anthropologist on Mars et al.), which probe the experiences of people with disorders and rare neurological conditions. In telling their stories, he often questions our assumptions about the nature of human consciousness. Part what distinguishes Sacks' work from the traditional case study is his interest in how a patient functions with a disorder, not just how he or she is impaired by it.

Sacks has also drawn on personal experience for wonderfully resonant scientific memoirs that recall his remarkable family, people who have influenced and inspired him, and his lifelong love of medicine and physical science. Meanwhile, he continues to work with patients, to understand them through writing about them, and to point his readers toward new ways of understanding themselves. As Thomas P. Sakmar, interim president of Rockefeller University, said in awarding Sacks the Lewis Thomas Prize: "Sacks presses us to follow him into uncharted regions of human experience -- and compels us to realize, once there, that we are confronting only ourselves."

Good To Know

As a child, Sacks was fascinated by the periodic table of the elements at the Science Museum in London. His boyhood love of chemistry hasn't waned: according to an article in Wired, Sacks owns half a dozen T-shirts with the periodic table printed on them, along with periodic-table coffee mugs, tote bags and mousepads.

Sacks's memoir Uncle Tungsten inspired the creation of Theodore Gray's Periodic Table Table, a wooden table representing Mendeleev's table of the elements and containing samples of each element. Sacks later paid a visit to see the Periodic Table Table -- wearing, of course, one of his periodic-table T-shirts.

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    1. Hometown:
      New York, New York
    1. Date of Birth:
      1933
    2. Place of Birth:
      London, England
    1. Education:
      B.M., B.Ch., Queen's College, Oxford, 1958

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 5 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 10, 2008

    A reviewer

    I admire this man!

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 3, 2015

    A compelling read!

    I usually like only fiction; but this fascinating book about a group of victims of "sleeping sickness" was all the more interesting because not only of the strange disorder, which put the victims into comas lasting decades; but of the anomalies in their temporary "cures" brought about by Dr. Oliver Sacks. If one were writing it as fiction, it would be almost difficult to believe, and yet these case historys are true. Even more compelling is the compassionate care and personal dedication to his patients shown by Dr. Sacks. Small wonder part of the story became the movie film "Awakenings", starring Robin Williams playing the part of Dr. Sacks. Read the entire story in the book, and you will surely be caught up in the story, and the man who dared to bring about near miracles with his methods. I have read all his books now, never being disappointed. An unusual man who explores unusual neurological ailments; Awakenings is one of his best books!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 11, 2010

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 3, 2009

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 30, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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