Famed physician & author Oliver Sacks to speak at URI

Media Contact: Jan Wenzel, 874-2116

Famed physician & author
Oliver Sacks to speak at URI
Talk is part of University’s ongoing
Honors Colloquium

KINGSTON, R.I. — November 25, 2002 — As a physician and writer Oliver Sacks is concerned with the link between the body and the mind and the way in which the whole person adapts to various neurological conditions. Sacks will address the neurological basis of identity at the University of Rhode Island on Tuesday, Dec. 3. His talk, part of URI’s ongoing Honors Colloquium, will begin at 7 p.m. in Room 271 of the Chafee Social Science Center at URI’s Kingston campus.

Sacks was born in 1933, the son of two physicians, in London. He earned his medical degree at Queen’s College, Oxford. In the early 1960s, he moved to the United States and completed an internship in San Francisco and a neurology residency at UCLA. Since 1965, he has lived in New York where he is a clinical professor of neurology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, adjunct professor of neurology at the NYU School of Medicine, and consultant neurologist to the Little Sisters of the Poor.

While working as a consulting neurologist in 1966 for Beth Abraham Hospital, a chronic care facility in the Bronx, Sacks treated an extraordinary group of patients. The patients became the subject of his book Awakenings, which inspired a Harold Pinter play and an Oscar-nominated movie starring Robert DiNiro and Robin Williams.

Many of the patients had spent decades in strange, frozen states, unable to initiate movement. Recognizing these patients as survivors of the great pandemic of sleeping sickness that had swept the world from 1916 to 1927, he treated them with the then-experimental drug L-dopa which enabled them to come back to life.

In another bestseller, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, the physician describes patients struggling to live with conditions such as Tourette’s Syndrome, autism, musical hallucination, and schizophrenia.

His books have been used widely in universities in courses on neuroscience, writing, ethics, philosophy, and sociology. They have also inspired artists working in forms as varied as poetry, essay, documentary, drama, painting, dance, cinema, and fiction.

His nine books include the most recent Oaxaca (2002) and Uncle Tungsten: Memories of a Chemical Boyhood (2001).

Major sponsors for the colloquium series are URI’s Honors Program, The URI Foundation, Theta Chi Fraternity, The Providence Journal, the Rhode Island Committee for the Humanities, the Joan Irvine Smith and Athalie R. Clarke Foundation, and the URI President’s Office. Additional sponsors include URI’s Offices of the Provost and the dean of Arts and Sciences, College of Nursing, Student Entertainment Committee, the Multicultural Center, the John Hazen White Sr. Center for Ethics and Public Service, the URI Alumni Association, the Department of Communications/News Bureau and Matritech.