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Remembering Oliver Sacks

Sunday, August 30, 2015 - 06:57 PM

Dr. Oliver Sacks (Photo Credit: Oliver Sacks)

In memory of one of our dear friends and one of the truest inspirations for Radiolab, a re-release of the last conversation we had with Dr. Oliver Sacks. 

When Radiolab was just starting out, Robert asked Dr. Oliver Sacks if he could help us, maybe send us a few story ideas. Over the years he has shared with us stories of chemistry, music, neurology, hallucinations and more, so much more. Because Oliver notices the world and the people around him with scientific rigor, with insight, and most importantly, with deep empathy. ‪When he announced a few months ago that he had terminal cancer and wasn't going to do any more interviews, we asked him if he'd talk with us one last time. He said yes‬. So Robert went, as he has done for 30 some years now, to his apartment with a microphone, this time to ask him about the forces that have driven him in his work, in his unique relationships with his patients, and in his own life.

This performance was scored live by the incomparable Sarah Lipstate/Noveller. Her new album Fantastic Planet is out now. 

The lullabies you hear in "Dr. Sacks Looks Back" are sung by Carrie Erving, whose current project is Ponyhof

Though it probably goes without saying, we highly recommend Dr. Sacks' new autobiorgraphy, On The Move. 


Dr. Oliver Sacks


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Comments [40]

Kevin Côté from New Jersey

I come periodically return, listening intently to this episode. Every frequency, tone, and melody released by Olivers voice is calming to the Nth degree. I must say, I cried and thought of Indigo when I heard this last. I hope to one day touch that trembling blob before my eyes.

Aug. 07 2017 04:26 AM
Anina Guerrero from Berkeley CA

Does anyone know what the Irish lullabies are called that are sung in the background ?

May. 07 2017 11:58 PM
shirley brooke from westlake village, cal

I have been recently acquainted with Dr. Sacks through my nephew Billy and so sorry it happened after he passed. I have a high functioning grandson that has autism and wish they could have met, in the meantime his writing has inspired me greatly.

Apr. 13 2016 03:23 PM
Aleeda from Maplewood, NJ

I had been saving several Oliver Sacks Radiolab segments to listen to at once. My fellow commuters must have thought I'd lost my mind, laughing and crying in the same 20-minute commute. Dr. Sacks, whose writings I first encountered 34 years ago in my Abnormal Psychology (yes, that was what it was called) , was an extraordinary person. Polymath seems too narrow a definition for his special genius in observing the world, and reporting back to us. I will miss him, and fear we will never see his equal in my lifetime. Bravo, and my support for Radiolab will be in his memory. THANK YOU!

Oct. 27 2015 11:44 AM
Jeff from Stamford CT

Wow! I have been listening to Radio Lab, on and off, for decades and always enjoy the depth of your stories. I never met Dr. Sacks but he certainly sounded like an insightful and out-of-the box thinker. Your final vignette about his seeing indigo, the difficulty you had in phrasing your closing words and the post-episode "drifting into space" and haunting music, pulled the story together perfectly. After silently reflecting on things for a few minutes, I now hope I see indigo, when my time comes. Thanks,

Sep. 23 2015 04:05 PM
John higinbotham from Alpheratta, Ga U.S.A

Im so sad were going to lose Oliver Sacks and pres. Jimmy Carter to cancer

Sep. 21 2015 09:19 AM
Joe Hartless

Anyone know what the music is at the end of this? Is reminds me of Brian Eno, and is hauntingly beautiful!

Sep. 17 2015 02:03 PM
Helen Shumaker from San Francisco

Tremendous gratitude to you for this interview. I've listened to it several times. His dear Billy is a cherished friend and introduced us. After decades of awe for the good doctor, meeting him was even more awe inspiring. You beautifully capture is brilliance, the near child-like candor, and his reveling in exquisite use of the language.
Thank you again, for this beautiful piece.

Sep. 11 2015 11:19 AM

What a life and such a brilliant mind! Totally impressed with Dr. Sacks experiences and life! I wish the best of everything to his soul for the rest of his journey!

Sep. 10 2015 02:46 PM
Michael Olvera from Dallas

Man, Radiolab can really be nice without the frenetic editing. Thanks for this quiet piece.

Sep. 09 2015 04:19 PM
Fabio from Los Angeles USA

RIP Dr Sacks. Total stud

Sep. 09 2015 02:48 PM

Everybody dies. A lot of the time, this is something you can accept -- even when some people go "before their time" you can accept it. But there are some people you just wish could live forever. I think Oliver Sacks was one of those people. A spark has gone out of the world.

Sep. 07 2015 12:19 AM

Garrett Burnham, the song is called Gathering the Elements by Noveller. Its on their album No Dreams.

I agree it is a beautiful piece and a perfect way to reflect on such an amazing man.

Sep. 06 2015 09:24 PM

Oliver taught us all a great deal about science, the brain, but most important of all; how to be a beautiful person.

Sep. 06 2015 06:13 PM
Kerry from Fort Myers, FL

I loved Awakenings, the movie. I have since thought of my dogs and cat as the ball from that story. Follow the ball...when things get rough, they tend to keep me going. Thank you, Dr. Sachs, for all you have done and will continue to do through your life and work.

Sep. 05 2015 01:13 PM
Nissan A.L. McCandlish from Petersburg, Michigan

I first learned about Oliver Sacks from listening to Radiolab and have loved listening to his wisdom and whimsy. He will be missed.

Sep. 04 2015 10:04 PM

Rest in Peace Mr. Oliver Sacks. You will be missed by all, even those that did not know you. Loved this podcast!

Sep. 03 2015 01:14 PM
Simon from Grand Rapids

Bye Oliver sacks. Nice knowin ya. :(

Sep. 02 2015 10:40 PM
Garrett Burnham from ST. Paul, MN

Could any one tell me the name of the song by Noveller at the end of this piece. It was a lovely way to reflect on the final words in the interview from such a brilliant man.

Sep. 02 2015 04:58 PM
lorrainepantaleo from NYS

The previous comments are so eloquent, there is nothing
more to add. He was all of those things and will be
deeply missed by many.

Sep. 02 2015 12:10 PM
EJ Lozanta from Philippines

What an amazing man he is. Thanks for your curiousity, Dr. Sacks. Great tribute, Radiolab.

Sep. 02 2015 12:22 AM
Matthew Kent from Honolulu, Hi

Rest in Peace Mr. Sacks. I only recently learned about this amazing individual. We need more like him. I vote Jared Harris play the lead role in the biographical film that should be made about him, written by Aaron Sorkin & directed by David Fincher!

Sep. 01 2015 06:51 PM
Arlene from N.E. WA

Sorry for misspelling Sacks. I'm sure he'd understand since I am around people with the nane spelled the way I did it. 😁

Sep. 01 2015 05:40 PM
Arlene from N.E. wA

It was nice you transcribed the first minute of this, but since Dr. Sax wrote about Deafness, it would be nice if the whole thing were accessible for the Deaf!

Sep. 01 2015 05:30 PM
Bobby from NY

Where can I listen to the full uncut interview featured in this show please? Does anyone know?

Sep. 01 2015 06:27 AM
Orca from Sydney, Australia

Thank you, that was a wonderfully poignant space in which to reflect on the passing of an extraordinary and beautiful person. Vale Oliver Sacks.

Sep. 01 2015 03:02 AM
Ramon from Houston, TX

Mr. Krulwich,

With this interview to Dr. Sacks [which I've listened to twice now], you have one more demonstrated to the world your mastery as a journalist and as a humanist.

I feel sad for Dr. Sacks' departure.

And I feel enlightened by the depth of your resemblance of a great mind of our times.

Forgive me for my audacity in judging your work.


Aug. 31 2015 11:52 PM
Ann from Washingington Heights

What a richly and wholly beautiful soul/mind! How lovely - and lucky for us! - to have been on the planet for a while with such a treasure, and what riches he leaves us to ponder... Thank you, Dr. Sacks, so much, for everything!

Aug. 31 2015 05:43 PM
Elliot Krane from Stanford

There is so much depth in Oliver Sacks's voice, so much humanity and intelligence in his thoughts, and such brilliance and beauty in his command of English. It is sad we have lost his voice and mind. But thank you Radiolab for your archive.

Aug. 31 2015 05:29 PM
Fran from NY

He looks like Zachary Quinto in this pic.

Aug. 31 2015 05:18 PM
Emily from Chicago, IL

Thank you RadioLab for paying tribute to a wonderful human being and mind. For anyone who hasn't read them, his last few articles in the New York Times moved me tremendously. Although the world has lost a bright star, I'm so happy he chose to share so much of himself with us.

May he be awash in indigo now. Rest in peace Dr. Sacks.

Aug. 31 2015 04:08 PM
Dori Erann from Delray Beach, FL

Thank you Radiolab! For bringing this incredible, brilliant and utterly lovable man to us again and again. I can only hope he had some idea of how loved and adored he was by so, so many people! I could listen to his warm, fully engulfing, poetic and inspiring stories all day long. We mourn with you!

Aug. 31 2015 02:58 PM
Kara from Dayton, OH

Thank you for everything, Dr. Sacks.

I hope that the door to understanding that you helped open does not close with your death.

I hope that you found your indigo once again.

Aug. 31 2015 01:54 PM
Mary from Davenport, IA

What a bright, brilliant, and caring human being. Dr. Sacks is one of those people that make me hopeful, restoring my trust in the good of the world. Whenever he would appear on Radiolab, I always smile. He will truly be missed by many people who got to know him through his work and writing, but especially by those close to him. Thank you Radiolab for sharing his stories with us.

Aug. 31 2015 11:38 AM
Adam Thorton from Tyler, Tx

I listened to this just a few nights ago in its original context. I've always enjoyed Dr. Sacks' contibutions to Radiolab. To me, they helped make the show what it is. It's a strange feeling to know that, just a short while ago, this person was alive and, from now forward, he won't be. I could get really existential but I'll spare you all by simply saying: time is strange. I'm going to miss his humor, cham and insight. We all will, I'm sure. I sincerely join Robert in hoping that Dr. Sacks finally got another glimps of indigo.

Aug. 31 2015 06:05 AM

Even though I was made aware and thus warned [by Radiolab], this made my heart miss a beat. I grew up with Dr. Sacks' writings, they did a lot to and for me. So it's a little as if someone I actually knew passed away.
A gap that won't close.

Aug. 31 2015 04:44 AM
Neal from USA

Today I am mourning the death of Dr Oliver Sacks. His was not the only death in today's news, but having heard him on RadioLab his passing seems personal to me. Kudos to RadioLab for bringing him to life via my radio and podcast.

Aug. 31 2015 02:10 AM



Aug. 31 2015 01:25 AM
Claudia Norby from Santa Rosa, CA U.S.A.

Your interview and comments mirror Dr. Sacks' kindness and generosity and warmness of heart. He was so extraordinary in those and so many other ways (e.g., the story you told about Mrs. o.C.); your interview is a wonderful tribute to him. Thank you.

Aug. 31 2015 01:01 AM
Jalowan from Crown Point, IN

Rest in peace Dr. Sacks

Aug. 30 2015 10:31 PM

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