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Laura J. Snyder
Unaffiliated independent scholar
Biography of Writer and Neurologist Oliver Sacks (1933-2015)

Research and writing of a biography of neurologist and author Oliver Sacks (1933-2015).

I am writing the first biography of Oliver Sacks (1933-2015), “the poet laureate of contemporary medicine,” whose bestselling works showed that the humanities—especially literature and philosophy—play a crucial role in medicine. His view that there is healing value in understanding and giving voice to a patient’s illness narrative revitalized the “case study” tradition and transformed medical practice. He revealed how philosophical explorations into the nature of consciousness inform neuroscience. And by highlighting his patients’ creativity, unique talents, and incredible valor in the face of their many challenges, Sacks sparked a cultural revolution, the “neurodiversity movement.” Sacks spent most of his career communicating literary methods, philosophical ideas, and medical research to a broad audience. Drawing on exclusive access to his vast personal archive, my biography of Sacks (under contract with Knopf) will be a work of public scholarship about the making of a public scholar.

Project fields:
British History; History and Philosophy of Science, Technology, and Medicine; U.S. History

Public Scholars

Research Programs

$60,000 (approved)
$60,000 (awarded)

Grant period:
9/1/2021 – 8/31/2022