Uncle Tungsten by Oliver Sacks
Memories of a Chemical Boyhood

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Synopsis

Long before Oliver Sacks became a distinguished neurologist and bestselling writer, he was a small English boy fascinated by metals–also by chemical reactions (the louder and smellier the better), photography, squids and cuttlefish, H.G. Wells, and the periodic table. In this endlessly charming and eloquent memoir, the author of The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Awakenings chronicles his love affair with science and the magnificently odd and sometimes harrowing childhood in which that love affair unfolded.

In Uncle Tungsten we meet Sacks’ extraordinary family, from his surgeon mother (who introduces the fourteen-year-old Oliver to the art of human dissection) and his father, a family doctor who imbues in his son an early enthusiasm for housecalls, to his “Uncle Tungsten,” whose factory produces tungsten-filament lightbulbs. We follow the young Oliver as he is exiled at the age of six to a grim, sadistic boarding school to escape the London Blitz, and later watch as he sets about passionately reliving the exploits of his chemical heroes–in his own home laboratory. Uncle Tungsten is a crystalline view of a brilliant young mind springing to life, a story of growing up which is by turns elegiac, comic, and wistful, full of the electrifying joy of discovery.
 

About Oliver Sacks

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Oliver Wolf Sacks is a neurologist and writer. He was born in London, England on July 9, 1933. Sacks earned his medical degree at Oxford University and performed his internship at Middlesex Hospital in London and Mount Zion Hospital in San Francisco. He completed his residency at UCLA. In 1965, Sacks became a clinical neurologist to the Little Sisters of the Poor and Beth Abraham Hospital. He also worked with the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Sacks' work in a Bronx charity hospital led him to write the book Awakenings in 1973. The book inspired a play by Harold Pinter and became a film starring Robert De Niro and Robin Williams. Sacks was also elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He also wrote Mind's Eye which made The NewYork Times Bestseller list for 2010.
 
Published December 11, 2013 by Vintage. 352 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Professional & Technical, Science & Math, Education & Reference. Non-fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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Robert Boyle and Antoine Lavoisier are introduced, as are Humphry Davy and his alkaline earth metals, John Dalton and his atomic theory, the wild and extravagant Dmitry Mendeleev, whose periodic table sends Sacks reeling with an appreciation of the mind’s ability to decipher the “superarching pri...

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The New York Times

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In a memoir of his youth, Oliver Sacks recalls the galvanizing and occasionally dangerous hold of chemistry.

Nov 04 2001 | Read Full Review of Uncle Tungsten: Memories of a...

The Guardian

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Uncle Tungsten: Memories of a Chemical Boyhood Oliver Sacks 336pp, Picador, £17.99 Uncle Tungsten was the relative with the lightbulb factory and a penchant for spectacular chemistry.

Dec 01 2001 | Read Full Review of Uncle Tungsten: Memories of a...

The Guardian

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Uncle Tungsten: Memories of a Chemical Boyhood Oliver Sacks Picador When Oliver Sacks was five he was asked what his favourite things in the world were.

Dec 09 2001 | Read Full Review of Uncle Tungsten: Memories of a...

Publishers Weekly

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Sacks, a neurologist perhaps best known for his books Awakenings (which became a Robin Williams/Robert De Niro vehicle) and The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, invokes his childhood in wartime England and his early scientific fascination with light, matter and energy as a mystic might invoke...

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Star Tribune

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It's a tricky business, things can explode if you're not careful -- and in the war, of course, they used this process to make incendiary bombs.'" So after cheerfully setting off a chemical conflagration, the uncle challenges Oliver: "'Now I've got several different metals he...

Dec 01 2001 | Read Full Review of Uncle Tungsten: Memories of a...

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