Oliver Sacks, the author of best-selling case histories of mental disorders, died on Sunday. Sacks used his patients conditions as starting points for eloquent meditations on consciousness and the human condition. His writings, which he described as “neurological novels,” won him a level of popular renown rare among scientists. They were also a source of controversy to readers who contended that he was exploiting his patient’s maladies. Regardless, his works resonated with readers. So much so that several were adapted for film and stage (“Awakenings“); even opera (“The Man who Mistook his Wife for a Hat”).
Born in Britain and educated at Queens College, Oxford, Dr. Sacks moved to America in the early 1960s. He conducted his internship and residency in California. While he “embraced the culture” there, in 1965 he took a position in New York, where he was to spend the rest of his career. In Sabbath, a late essay, Sacks wrote that: “I find my thoughts drifting to the Sabbath, the day of rest, when one can feel that one’s work is done, and one may, in good conscience, rest.”