Uncle Tungsten

Uncle Tungsten

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Product details

  • Paperback | 372 pages
  • ISIS Publishing
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • 0753197677
  • 9780753197677

Review Text

In 1997, a friend sent Oliver Sacks a package containing a periodic table, a chemical catalogue and a bar of tungsten. When the tungsten dropped out, the sound it made started a process of recollection which led to Sacks writing two million words about his boyhood in wartime England and his passion for chemistry. This book is the crystallization of those memories. Now known as a distinguished neurologist and the author of, among others, Awakenings and The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, Sacks was born into an intellectual Jewish milieu of scientists and doctors. Among the family members and relatives he lovingly describes was 'Uncle Tungsten', Sacks's Uncle Dave, a light-bulb manufacturer who encouraged his interest in metals. In 1939, Sacks was evacuated from his home in north-west London to a tyrannical school in the Midlands. It was the horror of this experience that drove him further into the science and romance of chemistry whose stability and glimpses into a hidden reality became a private refuge and a way of dealing with his traumatic memories. In a style both poetic and crystal clear, Sacks tells the story of his childhood and, at the same time, takes us through the history of chemistry from the 19th century to the radical 20th-century development of quantum theory. Throughout, he demonstrates how science became for him a matter of imagination and the sensual perception of reality as much as an investigation of the material world. This is reflected in the loving attention to detail in this book with its illustrated chapter headings and characteristic footnotes reminiscent of the old science books Sacks loved. His own book will soon become one of the classic scientific autobiographies. (Kirkus UK)show more