Uncle Tungsten

Uncle Tungsten

Memories of A Chemical Boyhood

Book - 2001
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Random House, Inc.
From his earliest days, Oliver Sacks, the distinguished neurologist who is also one of the most remarkable storytellers of our time, was irresistibly drawn to understanding the natural world. Born into a large family of doctors, metallurgists, chemists, physicists, and teachers, his curiosity was encouraged and abetted by aunts, uncles, parents, and older brothers. But soon after his sixth birthday, the Second World War broke out and he was evacuated from London, as were hundreds of thousands of children, to escape the bombing. Exiled to a school that rivaled Dickens's grimmest, fed on a steady diet of turnips and beetroots, tormented by a sadistic headmaster, and allowed home only once in four years, he felt desolate and abandoned.

When he returned to London in 1943 at the age of ten, he was a changed, withdrawn boy, one who desperately needed order to make sense of his life. He was sustained by his secret passions: for numbers, for metals, and for finding patterns in the world around him. Under the tutelage of his "chemical" uncle, Uncle Tungsten, Sacks began to experiment with "the stinks and bangs" that almost define a first entry into chemistry: tossing sodium off a bridge to see it take fire in the water below; producing billowing clouds of noxious-smelling chemicals in his home lab. As his interests spread to investigations of batteries and bulbs, vacuum tubes and photography, he discovered his first great scientific heroes, men and women whose genius lay in understanding the hidden order of things and disclosing the forces that sustain and support the tangible world. There was Humphry Davy, the boyish chemist who delighted in sending flaming globules of metal shooting across his lab; Marie Curie, whose heroic efforts in isolating radium would ultimately lead to the unlocking of the secrets of the atom; and Dmitri Mendeleev, inventor of the periodic table, whose pursuit of the classification of elements unfolds like a detective story.

Uncle Tungsten vividly evokes a time when virtual reality had not yet displaced a hands-on knowledge of the world. It draws us into a journey of discovery that reveals, through the enchantment and wonder of a childhood passion, the birth of an extraordinary and original mind.

Baker & Taylor
Long before Oliver Sacks became a distinguished neurologist and bestselling writer, he was a small English boy fascinated by metals-also by chemical reactions (the louder and smellier the better), photography, squids and cuttlefish, H.G. Wells, and the periodic table. In this endlessly charming and eloquent memoir, the author chronicles his love affair with science and the magnificently odd and sometimes harrowing childhood in which that love affair unfolded. 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 light bulbs. 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 memoir of the scientific wonder of youth by the distinguished neurologist and author describes his fascination with metals, gasses, and chemicals, and with unravelling the complex mysteries of the world around him.

Baker
& Taylor

The scientific wonder of youth is skillfully evoked in this intriguing memoir by the distinguished neurologist and author of Awakenings in which he describes his fascination with metals, gases, and chemicals, especially "Uncle Tungsten," and with unravelling the complex mysteries of the world around. 75,000 first printing.

Publisher: New York : Alfred A. Knopf, c2001
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 9780375404481
0375404481
Branch Call Number: B SAC
Characteristics: viii, 337 p. : illus. ; 22 cm

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JLIOlib
May 17, 2017

It's amazing to learn about how smart Dr. Sacks was since he was a little boy and his passion to chemistry. It's even more amazing that he had such open-minded and encouraging parents.

g
georgiag829
Mar 08, 2016

What a wonderful book! His love for the sciences really shines through and that enthusiasm extended to me! This was the very first book written by Oliver Sacks that I read. He's a wonderful writer and I highly recommend reading this book.

s
slottino
Apr 02, 2012

His autobiography seemed to be written more for himself than for other readers.

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