Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : August 31st 2015 Contents A29
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NEW YORK---There was the blind
man who had the disastrous expe-
rience of regaining his sight. The
surgeon who developed a sudden
passion for music after being
struck by lightning. And most
famously, the man who mistook
his wife for a hat.
Those stories and many more,
taking the reader to the distant
ranges of human experience, came
from the pen of Dr Oliver Sacks.
Sacks, 82, died yesterday at his
home in New York City, his assis-
tant, Kate Edgar, said. In February,
he had announced that he was ter-
minally ill with a rare eye cancer
that had spread to his liver.
As a practicing neurologist, Sacks
looked at some of his patients with
a writer s eye and found publishing
In his best-selling 1985 book, The
Man Who Mistook His Wife for a
Hat, he described a man who really
did mistake his wife s face for his
hat while visiting Sacks office,
because his brain had difficulty
interpreting what he saw. Another
story in the book featured twins
with autism who had trouble with
ordinary math but who could per-
form other amazing calculations.
Discover magazine ranked it
among the 25 greatest science books
of all time in 2006, declaring,
"Legions of neuroscientists now
probing the mysteries of the human
brain cite this book as their greatest
Sacks 1973 book, Awakenings,
about hospital patients who d spent
decades in a kind of frozen state
until Sacks tried a new treatment,
led to a 1990 movie in which Sacks
was portrayed by Robin Williams.
It was nominated for three Academy
Still another book, An Anthro-
pologist on Mars: Seven Paradoxical
Tales, published in 1995, described
cases like a painter who lost colour
vision in a car accident but found
new creative power in black-and-
white, and a 50-year-old man who
suddenly regained sight after nearly
a lifetime of blindness. The expe-
rience was a disaster; the man s
brain could not make sense of the
visual world. It perceived the human
face as a shifting mass of meaning-
less colours and textures.
After a full and rich life as a blind
person, he became "a very disabled
and miserable partially sighted man,"
Sacks recalled later. "When he went
blind again, he was rather glad of
it."Despite the drama and unusual
stories, his books were not literary
Oliver Wolf Sacks was born in
1933 in London, son of husband-
and-wife physicians. Both were
skilled at recounting medical stories,
and Sack s own writing impulse
"seems to have come directly from
them," he said in his 2015 memoir,
On the Move.
In childhood he was drawn to
chemistry (his 2001 memoir is titled
Uncle Tungsten: Memories of a
Chemical Boyhood) and biology.
Around age 11, fascinated by how
ferns slowly unfurl, he set up a cam-
era to take pictures every hour or
so of a fern and then assembled a
flip book to compress the process
into a few seconds.
"I became a doctor a little belat-
edly and a little reluctantly," he told
one interviewer. "In a sense, I was
a naturalist first and I only came to
individuals relatively late."
After earning a medical degree at
Oxford, Sacks moved to the United
States in 1960 and completed a
medical internship in San Francisco
and a neurology residency at the
University of California, Los Angeles.
He moved to New York in 1965 and
began decades of neurology practice.
At a Bronx hospital he met the pro-
foundly disabled patients he
described in Awakenings.
Among his other books were The
Island of the Colourblind (1997)
about a society where congenital
colourblindness was common, See-
ing Voices (1989) about the world
of deaf culture, and Hallucinations
(2012), in which Sacks discussed his
own hallucinations as well as those
of some patients.
Sacks reflected on his own life
this year when he wrote in the New
York Times that he was terminally
ill. "I am a man of vehement dis-
position, with violent enthusiasms,
and extreme immoderation in all
my passions," he wrote.
In the time he had remaining, he
said, he would no longer pay atten-
tion to matters like politics and glob-
al warming because they "are no
longer my business; they belong to
the future. I rejoice when I meet
gifted young people...I feel the future
is in good hands." (AP)
Sacks dies at 82
BERLIN---Germany, France and
Britain pressed Sunday for better pro-
cessing of migrants arriving in south-
ern Europe and for a European
Union-wide list of countries consid-
ered safe, and a special meeting of
EU interior and justice ministers was
called for September 14.
Interior ministers Thomas de
Maiziere of Germany, Bernard
Cazeneuve of France and Theresa May
of Britain stressed the need to set up
"hot spots" in Greece and Italy by the
year s end to ensure migrants are fin-
gerprinted and registered, allowing
authorities to identify quickly those
in need of protection.
They called in a statement for a spe-
cial ministerial meeting in the next
two weeks. De Maiziere said the EU
couldn t wait until a scheduled gath-
ering in early October and Luxem-
bourg, which holds the rotating EU
presidency, announced later Sunday
on Twitter that interior and justice
ministers will meet in Brussels Sept.
14 to discuss how to "strengthen the
Germany, which has seen many asy-
lum requests this year from Balkan
countries, is keen to identify "safe"
countries to ease returning rejected
"So that we can help those in need,
we must also tell those who are not
in need that they can t stay with us,"
Chancellor Angela Merkel said at the
chancellery in Berlin Sunday during
an annual government open day. Those
who do need protection should be
integrated more quickly "into our life,"
while those who don t should be sent
home quickly, she added.
Authorities expect the number of
refugees coming to Germany to reach
800,000 this year, a fourfold increase
on last year.
De Maiziere said that the figure
would be "too much for Germany" if
it remained so high for years, but
pushed aside a German state governor s
assertion that the figure could reach
1 million in 2015. The current estimate
is "seriously predicted," he said.
Berlin wants many other EU coun-
tries to do more to share the burden.
Merkel said the current situation "is
not fair." (AP)
A child is helped
cross from Serbia to
Hungary through a
barbed wire fence
Round the clock,
refugees cross daily
border with non-EU
member Serbia to
the south. AP PHOTO
Dr Oliver Sacks
FREETOWN---Health officials in Sierra
Leone yesterday confirmed an Ebola
death less than a week after the
country's last known patient was
discharged from a hospital.
Samples from the body of a 67-year-
old woman who died recently in Kambia
district in the country's north came back
positive for the deadly disease, said chief
medical officer Dr Brima Kargbo.
Last Monday, the last known Ebola
patient was released from a hospital in
Sierra Leone, a milestone that allowed
the West African nation to begin a 42-
day countdown toward being declared
free of Ebola transmission.
Authorities were still trying to
determine whether the woman in
Kambia died before or after that
countdown began, Kargbo said.
The National Ebola Response Centre
had deployed teams to conduct
surveillance and trace people who were
in contact with the woman, said OB
Sisay, the centre's director.
The worst Ebola outbreak in history
has killed nearly 4,000 people in Sierra
Leone out of more than 13,500 cases,
according to the World Health
Sierra Leone: Officials confirm new Ebola death
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