Renowned author and neurologist Dr. Oliver Sacks passed away at age 82 over the weekend at his Manhattan home, according to The New York Times.
Dr. Sacks wasn't your average researcher. His literary work was widely popular and even spawned 1990's Oscar-nominated "Awakenings," starring Robin Williams. The Times reports that over 1 million of his books are in print in the US — a testament to his ability to understand the human brain in depth while also writing about the subject in a relatable and engaging fashion.
In February, Dr. Sacks explained in a New York Times op-ed that he'd been diagnosed with ocular melanoma ("a rare tumor of he eye") nine years ago, and that things had more recently taken a turn for the worse — all despite radiation and laser treatment that had left him blind in that eye.
"I feel grateful that I have been granted nine years of good health and productivity since the original diagnosis, but now I am face to face with dying," Dr. Sacks wrote. "The cancer occupies a third of my liver, and though its advance may be slowed, this particular sort of cancer cannot be halted."
Despite the diagnosis and its terminal nature, Dr. Sacks' spirits remained strong.
"Over the last few days, I have been able to see my life as from a great altitude, as a sort of landscape, and with a deepening sense of the connection of all its parts," Dr. Sacks added. "This does not mean I am finished with life. On the contrary, I feel intensely alive, and I want and hope in the time that remains to deepen my friendships, to say farewell to those I love, to write more, to travel if I have the strength, to achieve new levels of understanding and insight."
It was an appropriately ambitious agenda for someone who'd never settled for anything less. In famous publications like "The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat," Dr. Sacks aimed to relate his patients' various neurological conditions to a wider audience. In turn, the case histories promoted awareness and perhaps even empathy for those living through those conditions (which included the likes of Tourette's and Asperger's).
"I had always liked to see myself as a naturalist or explorer," he wrote in 1984's "A Leg to Stand On," per the Times. "I had explored many strange, neuropsychological lands — the furthest Arctics and Tropics of neurological disorder."
Thanks to those journeys, the intricacies and oddities of the human mind are perhaps a bit more familiar now.