British neurologist Oliver Sacks, the author of a number of well-known books including The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, has died aged 82.
He died of cancer on Sunday at his home in New York City, his long-time assistant, Kate Edgar, told the New York Times.
Sacks announced he was in the late stages of terminal cancer in an Op-Ed piece for the Times in February.
“It is up to me now to choose how to live out the months that remain to me. I have to live in the richest, deepest, most productive way I can,” he wrote in the Times.
In the piece Sacks mentioned one of his favourite philosophers, David Hume, who wrote a short autobiography in a single day after learning he was ill.
“I have been lucky enough to live past 80, and the 15 years allotted to me beyond Hume’s three score and five have been equally rich in work and love,” he said.
“In that time, I have published five books and completed an autobiography (rather longer than Hume’s few pages) to be published this spring; I have several other books nearly finished.”
Sacks was born into a Jewish family in London and attended Oxford University.
However he made his name in academia in the US, through his highly distinctive style of mixing detailed narrative observation with science.
Sacks’ 1973 book Awakenings, about a group of patients with an atypical form of encephalitis at a hospital in the Bronx, won him widespread attention.
He achieved a level of fame rare among scientists, with more than 1 million copies of his books in print in the United States and his work having been adapted for film and stage.
While he sometimes received criticism for exploiting his patients for his own gain, Sacks said he always aimed to show them respect.
His patients included a blind woman who saw her hands as useless “lumps of dough”, and a man whose brain had lost the ability to decipher what his eyes were seeing, mistaking his wife for a hat.
He dedicated much of his life’s work to explaining the mysteries of the mind.