Uncle Tungsten: Memories of a Chemical Boyhood


Oliver Sacks, a physician and writer whose exploration of the link between mind and body became part of American popular culture with the release of Awakenings..Since then this master storyteller has released other titles like:The Man who mistook his wife for a hat, An anthropologist on Mars, and the Island of the colorblind.

Central Theme
Being possessed of a natural curiosity and being raised in a medical and scientific family helped shape the extraordinarily interesting neurologist, Oliver Sacks.

Sacks recounts his childhood experiences in an Orthodox Jewish home where his father was a kindly physician by day and a student of Hebraic Scriptures by night. Mother was shy but scientifically precocious.His aunts and uncles were also in scientific pursuits and were a source of constant information for the exploratory mind of young Oliver. Seven of his nine uncles were in the sciences. How many kids can say their fondest childhood memories are “of metals?”Like so many children in WWII England, Sacks was sent away for Boarding School where he witnessed and experienced life-altering brutality of authority figures against children. He also recounts a story where he tested the existence of God and reveals in the book a fondness for the comforts of religious tradition but no belief in the supernatural. His fascination with the periodic tables and mathematics is rooted in his desire for order. His home laboratory, the thrill of scientific discovery all this and more are in store for the reader of this warm, intelligent reflection on the early life of a truly original thinker.

Beliefs num
–There is no supernatural.
–One can be raised in a religious home without knowing what the parents believe.
–The sciences became a replacement for religion in Oliver’s life, but not in his father’s life.
–The shaping influence of immediate and extended family cannot be overstated.
–Never turn away the inquisitive child. Feed their curiosities.

Questions Worth Discussing num
–How has your family shaped your life’s trajectory?
–How have you resolved the tensions between religion and science?

Provocative Quotes byline
–Well, I-I sort of asked God if he would either bless or curse one row so I could see a difference and-and be reassured of his existence. But he ignored my request, or else he wasn’t there. But-but, of course, even to consider this absurd experiment, you know, indicated, you know, a breakdown anyhow.
–Mendeleev, who discovered or invented the periodic table, I identified him in my mind with Moses. And I thought of him coming down from a sort of Sinai. These are periodic tables of the law.

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