A Look Back: Einstein in History

sacksOliver Sacks, M.D., who died last August (see In Memoriam), belonged to Einstein’s neurology faculty from 1967 through 2007 and was the commencement speaker for Einstein’s Class of 1991. He was a noted clinical researcher and author, perhaps best known for his 1973 book Awakenings, which described his work with patients suffering from encephalitis lethargica. Dr. Sacks elaborated on his famous experiment in “Awakenings Revisited,” an article published by Einstein News in 1984.

“I saw wards full of strange frozen figures, human statues, as motionless as stone—a terrible and incredible sight,” he wrote. “I found this vision doubly incredible: first because nothing I had read or heard prepared me in the least. . . . Second, I had not realized that such things could be—they appeared on, or beyond, the verge of the possible. . . . During this time I came to know all our post-encephalitics well, not only as cases, but as persons. I came to see that in every case, there was a vivid, vital personal presence within the immobilizing, anonymizing walls of sleep.”

Dr. Sacks returned to Einstein in 2013 (above) to attend a remembrance for neurologist Saul R. Korey, M.D. (To his left is Isabelle Rapin, M.D., professor emerita of neurology and pediatrics.) His white beard and mischievous eyes were expected, but the black sneakers were a style surprise. He did not ride his motorcycle to Einstein that day.