Oliver Sacks Dead at 82

30/08/2015 8:12 PM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST
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NEW YORK - JUNE 3: Neurologist Dr. Oliver Sacks speaks at Columbia University June 3, 2009 in New York City. Dr. Sacks, who was appointed Professor of Neurology and Psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center in 2007, is the author of several bestselling books. His 1973 book 'Awakenings' was adapted into the Academy Award-nominated film of the same name starring Robert De Niro and Robin Williams and his latest book is 'Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain'. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

Dr Oliver Sacks, the neurologist and author famous for mapping the curiosities of the human brain in his bestselling books has died in his home in New York, aged 82.

In February this year Sacks wrote a beautiful and moving column in The New York Times upon learning that cancer had spread to his liver and that his luck "had run out".

"Nine years ago it was discovered that I had a rare tumor of the eye, an ocular melanoma. The radiation and lasering to remove the tumor ultimately left me blind in that eye. But though ocular melanomas metastasize in perhaps 50 percent of cases, given the particulars of my own case, the likelihood was much smaller. I am among the unlucky ones," he wrote.

Sacks' books sold millions of copies and he received international renown for his accessible style, wisdom, and humour. His most famous work was his groundbreaking The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat, a collection of stories about fascinating neurological cases. The 1990 film Awakenings, starring Robin Williams and Robert De Niro, was based on his book of the same name.

As he described facing his own death in his February Op-Ed piece, Sacks wrote:

"I feel a sudden clear focus and perspective. There is no time for anything inessential. I must focus on myself, my work and my friends. I shall no longer look at “NewsHour” every night. I shall no longer pay any attention to politics or arguments about global warming.

"This is not indifference but detachment — I still care deeply about the Middle East, about global warming, about growing inequality, but these are no longer my business; they belong to the future. I rejoice when I meet gifted young people — even the one who biopsied and diagnosed my metastases. I feel the future is in good hands."

Sacks never married and had no children. His death was announced by his long term personal assistant, Kate Edgar.

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