OLIVER SACKS CBE FRCP (d: 2015) was a British neurologist naturalist, historian of science, and author. Born on this date in Britain, and mostly educated there, he spent his career in the United States. He believed that the brain is the “most incredible thing in the universe”. He became widely known for writing best-selling case histories about both his patients’ and his own disorders and unusual experiences, with some of his books adapted for plays by major playwrights, feature films, animated short films, opera, dance, fine art, and musical works in the classical genre.
After Sacks received his medical degree from The Queen’s College, Oxford in 1960, he interned at Middlesex Hospital (now part of University College, London) before moving to the US. He then interned at Mount Zion Hospital in San Francisco and completed his residency in neurology and neuropathology at UCLA. He relocated to New York in 1965, where he first worked under a paid fellowship in neurochemistry and neuropathology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Upon realizing that the neuro-research career he envisioned for himself would be a poor fit, in 1966 he began serving as neurologist at Beth Abraham Hospital’s chronic-care facility in the Bronx. While there, he worked with a group of survivors of the 1920s sleeping sickness encephalitis lethargica, who had been unable to move on their own for decades. His treatment of those patients became the basis of his book Awakenings. In the period from 1966 to 1991 he was a neurological consultant to various New York City-area nursing homes (especially those operated by Little Sisters of the Poor), hospitals, and at the Bronx Psychiatric Center.
Sacks never married and lived alone for most of his life. He declined to share personal details until late in his life. He addressed his sexuality for the first time in his 2015 autobiography On the Move: A Life. Celibate for about 35 years since his forties, in 2008 he began a relatinonship with writer and New York Times contributor Bill Hayes. Their friendship slowly evolved into a committed long-term partnership that lasted until Sacks’s death; Hayes wrote about it in the 2017 memoir Insomniac City: New York, Oliver and Me.