Published: 31-08-2015 16:02 | Updated: 01-09-2015 16:10

Oliver Sacks, neurologist and honorary doctor at KI, wrote “epoch-making books”

Oliver Sacks.

Oliver Sacks is dead. The world-famous doctor was many things. He was, for example, professor of neurology at the NYU School of Medicine in New York, USA, and the best-selling author of several books, including Awakenings, which was later made into a successful film. In 2003 Oliver Sacks was made honorary doctor of medicine at Karolinska Institutet.

Oliver Sacks passed away on Sunday 30 August after a long battle with cancer. He told the New York Times last February that the melanoma in his eye had metastasised and that he had only a few months left to live.

By the time he was made honorary doctor of medicine at Karolinska Institutet in 2003 he had written a number of popular books on his neurology patients, his collection of essays on memory loss titled “The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat” being regarded by many as a literary classic. The New York Times has called him “The Poet Laureate of Medicine”.

The decision to make Oliver Sacks an honorary doctor of medicine at KI was taken in acknowledgement of the way his works aroused such widespread interest in patients with neurological disorders, such as sleeping sickness, Tourette’s syndrome, acquired colour-blindness, autism and Alzheimer’s disease. “His writings are epoch-making in that they combine immense scientific knowledge with a subjective insight into the patients’ problems,” wrote the Board of Research in 2003 in its announcement.

The board also commended him for “combining his clinical skills in neurology with an astute eye and a unique talent for writing and story-telling. In this way, he combines medical science with humanist insight into his patients’ suffering.”

When he came to Sweden to receive his doctor’s hat at Karolinska Institutet, he took the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of his childhood heroes, the chemists Scheele and Berzelius, and to lay a wreath at Scheele’s grave in Köping.

Oliver Sacks was 82.

Professor Georg Klein comments on his former collegue M.D. Oliver Sacks.