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La motxilla de la ciència – ‘En movimiento. Una vida’ d’Oliver Sacks

La motxilla de la ciència – ‘En movimiento. Una vida’ d’Oliver Sacks


Welcome to the backpack of science. Today I carry inside the backpack
a very different biography, the biography of a scientist.
It is a neurologist who died a few months ago after writing a very moving letter
in the New York Times. He is the neurologist Oliver Sacks and this is his posthumous work, a biography that he wanted
to leave for everyone, for all the humankind,
which is called «On the Move. A Life.» It is edited by Anagrama. I will never be grateful enough
to Jorge Herralde for publishing
all the books of Oliver Sacks, and it is translated into Spanish
by Damián Alou. I can tell you now that it is a very brave
and a very well-written book. It is full of science
and full of life. Thus, let us begin
with a brief introduction. And «On the Move» by Oliver Sacks
begins like this: «When I was at boarding school, sent away
during the war as a little boy, I had a sense of imprisonment
and powerlessness, and I longed
for movement and power, ease of movement
and superhuman powers. I enjoyed these, briefly, in dreams of flying
and, in a different way, when I went horse ridding
in the village near school. I loved the power
and suppleness of my horse, and I can still evoke its easy
and joyous movement, its warmth
and sweet, hayey smell. Most of all,
I loved motorbikes.» Thus «On the Move,» begins by Oliver Sacks. Many of you
may have heard of him, of this doctor, this neurologist, and certainly there will be some
that are fascinated, as in my case, by «The Man who Mistook
his Wife for a Hat» or other works,
such as «Musicophilia» of 2007. And many of you may have watched
the film «Awakenings», based on his own personal experience
as a doctor in some isolated cases. Well. None of these works
I mentioned beats this one, the narrative power,
the writing strength of this one. There are 437 pages
that turn into a river of words which drags you
and you do not want to leave. You want to stay with this story. I was telling you
that there is a lot of science inside. Because he explains how he began
to be interested in science. And it was because of this, precisely.
Thanks to the periodic table. The elements table. He used to love chemistry
as a child. In fact, he liked it throughout his
whole life and one friend of his, when they were older,
organized for him a birthday party where each one of the guests was dressed as one of the elements
from the periodic table. We also find clinical cases,
the description of the cases that made him realize
how much interested he was in writing. There are also diseases, and his thoughts
about the diseases he treated. He focused quite a lot
in perceptual dysfunctions. And why? Because he used
to suffer ocular migraines. When he had a very strong migraine,
he had visual hallucinations and therefore he focused very much
in this perceptual dysfunctions. He also talks of the Tourette syndrome,
the Asperger syndrome, autism, people
with neuronal disorders… There is a very interesting thing, and it is that he speaks of science
as if it were a collective enterprise. That is, he explains long conversations
with doctors and scientists, such as Gerald Edelman
or the well-known Francis Crick. And how his mind evolves as he talks
to these great scientists. He was not a big theorist,
but he was a very good experimenter. He carried out excellent fieldwork. So he talks about science
as a collective enterprise. I have said that there is a lot of science,
but also a lot of life. As he have heard
with the short fragment, that interest he feels,
that passion for motorbikes. If you pay attention, on the cover
there is a photograph of him, a young Oliver Sack on a motorbike. With a very cool pose, although
it seems that he was very shy. He was fond
not only of motorcycles, with which he used to travel
through England and the United States, but he also liked
diving and weightlifting. I was saying before
that it is a very brave book, and I think that one of the greatest virtues
of this work is the sincerity. Together with this fantastic
skill to write, to narrate, the sincerity, the fact of stripping himself
naked before the readers. Here he confesses being homosexual and, in fact, he explains
how he told his parents about. Something that led him
to a fight and the rejection by his mother,
who was also a doctor. In fact, both of his parents
were doctors. He stripes himself naked to the point
of confessing addictions to drugs, to substances, that later he overcame
and he explains how. In short, an exciting book,
full of science and life. Enjoy it.

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