Oliver Sacks – a tormented genius

Oliver Sacks, the neurologist, naturalist, historian of science, and author was once described as the “poet laureate of contemporary medicine”, and “one of the great clinical writers of the 20th century”. He became widely known for writing best-selling case histories about both his patients’ and his own disorders with some of his books adapted for plays and films. He was fascinated by how the brain deals with perception, memory, and individuality and once said the brain is the “most incredible thing in the universe”.

  He was born on 9 July 1933 in London (no birth time sadly), the son of a Lithuanian Jewish doctor father with his mother being one of the first female surgeons in England. She was one of 18 siblings and he had an extremely large extended family of eminent scientists, physicians and other notable individuals.

  He was evacuated with his brother when he was six to a boarding school out of London where he remained until 1943, being half-starved and badly treated by a sadistic headmaster.

  He’s another with an extra difficult chart. He had a controlled Sun Pluto in Cancer with his Pluto in a disruptive square to Uranus – not the recipe for a settled life but he had the makings of a breakthrough-researcher. He also had a Yod of his Cancer Sun sextile a confident Jupiter in Virgo inconjunct Saturn (and Moon?) in Aquarius, which last points to a scientific bent. His Saturn opposed Mercury and Venus in Leo making him fear he was less intelligent/articulate than he’d like and less lovable. A Saturnine Yod often brings major difficulties initially with low self-esteem and feelings of despair.

  His medical career had a rocky start as he went through periods of self-doubt and he dabbled extensively in recreational drugs. He was described by a colleague as “deeply eccentric” and he admitted to suffering ‘severe shyness’. He never married, remained celibate for most of his life though ultimately he settled into a committed partnership with NY Times writer Bill Hayes.

  Like many genius level thinkers his Neptune is strongly marked – not obvious on his chart without a birth time. But it stands out amongst his midpoints.

   An outstanding mind and talent went hand in hand with a fairly tortured life.

Pic: Luigi Novi.  

3 thoughts on “Oliver Sacks – a tormented genius

  1. More joy!!!… just reading about Oliver Sacks puts a smile on my face!!

    Years ago, I watched a 5 part series called The Mind Traveller. Each episode had Mr. Sacks focus on a person with a particular medical diagnosis… Touret’s, Autism, etc. The most delightful episode was focussed on a young girl with Williams-Beuren syndrome… a genetic syndrome bestowing a host of unique physical and neurological issues. Two of these ‘issues” are a gift with music and an engaging friendly social-ability!! Lovely!!

    The episode begins with Mr. Sacks visiting a summer camp for kids with W-B syndrome. They are singing and laughing and VERY friendly. He was standing apart at first… painfully shy to approach all this exuberance and pleasure.

    He was captured, intrigued… and envious!!!
    He wanted nothing more than to be as freely expressive as these kids were.

    What was “right” about this syndrome?….about anything?
    What does anything difficult in our lives offer us?

    Oh… he had his demons and troubles….
    still… a gifted person!!

    thanks again, Marjorie,
    and to each of you, I wish you Season’s Greetings..
    and blessings of health and love in the New Year.

    what is “right” about this unique Christmas season, eh?

    • Thank you so much…I needed a web series to pour my hours this holiday season

      Merry Christmas to all of you n Marjorie

      Waiting earnestly for 2021 forecast

      • I have searched for years to find this series.
        Just looked on Youtube and see 2 episodes…
        and one is “Don’t be Shy, Mr. Sacks”… about people with William’s Syndrome.
        the other is “The Ragin’ Cajun”.



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