Memories of a Chemical Boyhood
By Oliver Sacks
Vintage Books USA, Paperback, 9780375704048, 337pp.
Publication Date: September 17, 2002
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.
“A rare gem…. Fresh, joyous, wistful, generous, and tough-minded.”–The New York Times Book Review
“This book underlies everything else Dr. Sacks has written, and is worthy to stand with the great scientific memoirs, for it’s passion, its insight, its sense of history and its felicity.” –Paul Theroux
“Fired by Sacks’s enthusiasm–obviously genuine, impossible to feign–bursting forth in all directions. . . .The book recounts the growth of a formidable young mind opening up to the order and beauty of the material world.” –Newsday
“Sack’s study of a mind [is] as tough as tungsten, as fluid as mercury . . . as precious as gold.” –The Seattle Times