'The story of a disease that plunged its victims into a prison of viscous time, and the drug that catapulted them out of it' Guardian
Hailed as a medical classic, and the subject of a major feature film as well as radio and stage plays and various TV documentaries, Awakenings by Oliver Sacks is the extraordinary account of a group of twenty patients. Rendered catatonic by the sleeping-sickness epidemic that swept the world just after the First World War, all twenty had spent forty years in hospital: motionless and speechless; aware of the world around them, but exhibiting no interest in it - until Dr Sacks administered the then-new drug, L-DOPA, which caused them, temporarily, to awake from their decades-long slumber.
Oliver Sacks was born in 1933 in London and was educated at Queen's College, Oxford. He completed his medical training at San Francisco's Mount Zion Hospital and at UCLA before moving to New York, where he soon encountered the patients whom he would write about in his book Awakenings. Dr Sacks spent almost fifty years working as a neurologist and wrote many books, including The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, Musicophilia, and Hallucinations, about the strange neurological predicaments and conditions of his patients. The New York Times referred to him as 'the poet laureate of medicine', and over the years he received many awards, including honours from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Science Foundation, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the Royal College of Physicians. In 2008, he was appointed Commander of the British Empire. His memoir, On the Move, was published shortly before his death in August 2015.