Born in North London, Sacks hailed from a family of doctors: his father, Samuel, was a general practitioner who worked with poor families in London's East End, while his mother, Muriel Elsie Landau, was one of the first female surgeons in England. By his own account, Sacks' childhood was marked by a lack of emotional nurturing from his parents and abuse at the sadistic hands of administrators at a boarding school in the Midlands where he and his brothers were sent during the Blitz. The experience had a profound effect on his belief in God, whom he felt had abandoned him during this terrible period. Upon his return to his family's home, Sacks began to display an interest in science and medicine, and received a degree in physiology and biology from The Queen's College, Oxford, in 1954. After earning his doctorate from Oxford four years later, Sacks lit out for Canada and hitchhiked his way to San Francisco and Los Angeles, where he worked for five years as a neurologist at UCLA. In 1966, Sacks moved to New York, where he attempted to break into research, but was instead sent to serve as neurological consultant at various clinics and nursing homes operated by the Little Sisters of the Poor. His first assignment was at a migraine clinic, where he encountered patients who contended with the debilitating headaches in a wide and sometimes unusual array of methods. The experience spurred Sacks to write his first book, titled Migraine (1970). It established his signature style, which explored the condition not as a mere case study, but how the migraine impacted the person's life on a personal level and forced them to adapt in order to survive. His next book, Awakenings, concerned his work with survivors of the 1920s encephalitis lethargica epidemic, which he attempted to treat using the drug L-DOPA. Awakenings would serve as inspiration for Harold Pinter's play "A Kind of Alaska," as well as Penny Marshall's Oscar-nominated film of the same name, with Robin Williams as a fictionalized version of Sacks. In 1984, Sacks himself served as the subject of his third book, A Leg to Stand On, which details his own recovery after experiencing a serious injury, as well as his own issues of hypochondria. Now firmly established as a leading author in medical non-fiction, Sacks pursued a variety of other rare and unusual conditions in his subsequent work. In The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat (1985), Sacks dealt with a form of cognitive impairment called visual agnosia, which prevents sufferers from properly identifying visual objects. A decade later, cases of Tourette's Syndrome and autism were explored in An Anthropologist on Mars (1995), while The Island of the Colorblind examined the impact of rare conditions on tiny island communities. Sacks turned his focus inward for Uncle Tungsten, which detailed his upbringing and early fascination with chemistry and science. In 2012, Sacks attempted to put hallucinatory experiences into a scientific context with Hallucinations. These and other efforts, both literary and clinical, earned Sacks a host of laurels and honors, including honorary fellowship at The Queen's College, Oxford and Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 2008. Two years later, Sacks revealed that he suffered from the loss of stereoscopic vision due to an ocular melanoma, which later served as the subject of his book The Mind's Eye in 2010. In an Op-Ed piece in the New York Times in February 2015, Sacks announced that his cancer had metastasized, and declared that he would spend his remaining time strengthening the relationships in his life. Sacks died on August 29, 2015, at the New York City home he shared with his partner, author Billy Hayes. He was 82.
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