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'There isn't a week that I don't swim'


The places I have swum
Oliver Sacks Scientist
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I... I go every year to Curacao where there’s a swim or a triathlon group. I went there in '96, and I’ve gone every year since. And... I swam in Lake Titicaca, which I enjoyed; it was a little cool and so I wore a wet suit, unlike my friend Lynne Cox, whose photo is behind me, who is... who does a huge cold water swim. She swum the Antarctic, she doesn’t wear anything. When she swam the Antarctic a... a documentary was made about this, she was surrounded by incredulous penguins who... who wondered what this odd biped was doing among them. I would like to swim in Lake Baikal.

Swimming is one of the very few things I think one can do all one’s life... and my father, who adored swimming and always had a towel and swim trunks in the car, he had those as he had his little scores. He developed terrible arthritis of the knees and got almost chair-bound in his last years, but we could wheel him to the pool and tip him in as from a wheelbarrow and he’d take off like a porpoise. So I hope that when I am wheelchair-bound and... you’ll do the same.

Oliver Sacks (1933-2015) was born in England. Having obtained his medical degree at Oxford University, he moved to the USA. There he worked as a consultant neurologist at Beth Abraham Hospital where in 1966, he encountered a group of survivors of the global sleepy sickness of 1916-1927. Sacks treated these patients with the then-experimental drug L-Dopa producing astounding results which he described in his book Awakenings. Further cases of neurological disorders were described by Sacks with exceptional sympathy in another major book entitled The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat which became an instant best seller on its publication in 1985. His other books drew on his rich experiences as a neurologist gleaned over almost five decades of professional practice. Sacks's work was recognized by prestigious institutions which awarded him numerous honours and prizes. These included the Lewis Thomas Prize given by Rockefeller University, which recognizes the scientist as poet. He was an honorary fellow of both the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and held honorary degrees from many universities, including Oxford, the Karolinska Institute, Georgetown, Bard, Gallaudet, Tufts, and the Catholic University of Peru.

Listeners: Kate Edgar

Kate Edgar, previously Managing Editor at the Summit Books division of Simon and Schuster, began working with Oliver Sacks in 1983. She has served as editor and researcher on all of his books, and has been closely involved with various films and adaptations based on his work. As friend, assistant, and collaborator, she has accompanied Dr Sacks on many adventures around the world, clinical and otherwise.

Tags: Lake Titicaca, Southern Ocean, Antarctic, Lake Baikal

Duration: 1 minute, 54 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2011

Date story went live: 02 October 2012