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Oliver Sacks Dies at 82

Oliver Sacks Dies at 82

Oliver Sacks

The openly gay neurologist and beloved author found love late in life.

The author and neurologist Dr. Oliver Sacks died early Sunday, August 30, at his home in Manhattan at the age of 82 from cancer. He'd been writing about his terminal cancer in the New York Times since February, when he revealed that a melanoma in his eye had spread to his liver, and he was openly contemplating his mortality. He is survived by his partner of eight years, writer Bill Hayes.

In his 2015 memoir, On the Move: A Life, Sacks discussed his sexuality for the first time -- revealing that he knew he was gay as an adolescent in the 1940s but remained celibate for 35 years. As he explained, he was inclined to living "at a certain distance from life," until he unexpectedly fell in love -- "(for God's sake!) I was in my 77th year" -- with Hayes, also a writer.

Oliver Sacks

An acclaimed neurologist, many know Sacks from his beloved books and the films made from them, including Awakenings. In that film, starring Robin Williams and Robert De Niro, Williams played a character based on Sacks and the story was adapted from his 1973 book about a group of patients with an atypical form of encephalitis. Through his research and books -- including The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and An Anthropologist on Mars -- he helped introduce syndromes such as Tourette's or Asperger's to a general audience.

As Michiko Kakutani writes in the Times, Sacks was:

"...a polymath and an ardent humanist, and whether he was writing about his patients, or his love of chemistry or the power of music, he leapfrogged among disciplines, shedding light on the strange and wonderful interconnectedness of life -- the connections between science and art, physiology and psychology, the beauty and economy of the natural world and the magic of the human imagination."

In his February op-ed in the New York Times, he wrote:

"I cannot pretend I am without fear. But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved; I have been given much and I have given something in return; I have read and traveled and thought and written. I have had an intercourse with the world, the special intercourse of writers and readers.

"Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure." His patients have lost an erudite and compassionate doctor. The world has lost a writer of immense talent and heart, a writer who helped illuminate the wonders, losses and consolations of the human condition."

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