Dr. Oliver Sacks, acclaimed author and world-renowned neurologist, died in his home early Sunday, his longtime personal assistant Kate Edgar confirmed. He was 82.
The author, who helped explain several oddities in the brain to the world, died of cancer in his New York City home, New York Times reports. According to the Times, Sacks announced in an inspirational Op-Ed essay in February that he was in the late stages of terminal cancer.
An earlier melanoma in his eye had spread to his liver, Sacks wrote. He was diagnosed with ocular melanoma nine years ago, according to CNN. He was treated for the cancer, but it blinded him in one eye and spread.
“I feel grateful that I have been granted nine years of good health and productivity since the original diagnosis, but now I am face to face with dying,” the A Leg to Stand On author wrote. “The cancer occupies a third of my liver, and though its advance may be slowed, this particular sort of cancer cannot be halted,” he added.
Sacks wrote in February that he could not be without fear when it comes to thinking of passing on, but he had “predominant feeling” of gratitude. “I have loved and been loved; I have been given much and I have given something in return; I have read and traveled and thought and written. I have had an intercourse with the world, the special intercourse of writers and readers,” he wrote.
The British-born doctor has more than a million copies of his books in print in the U.S., according to PEOPLE. Sacks has aided in introducing syndromes such as Asperger’s and Tourettes to the world through his books, or what he called “neurological novels” and “case studies,” the Times reports.
If you don’t know him for his astounding accomplishments or thoughts on the human condition, you may know him from the film Awakenings. In the 1990s drama, the late Robin Williams played Sacks. The novel-based film follows a doctor and his encephalitic lethargic patients. The patients “wake up” after decades of sleep and the doctor finds the advantages of the L-Dopa drug.
He wrote about several different kinds of people and conditions in his novels including Jimmie G., a submarine radio operator stranded for three decades in 1945 due to amnesia; Madeleine J., a blind woman who thought of her hands as “lumps of dough”; and Dr.P, a man whose brain lost the ability to link his eyes to what he was seeing and mistook his wife for a hat. And his incredible characters such as these helped explain certain syndromes to the general audience.
Sacks began his medical career as a researcher, but he gave up on that early. He had neither the hand-eye coordination nor the temperament to be a researcher, the Times reports. Little did he know that his intellectual curiosity would take him on a long and gratifying journey through life that would help educate and inspire writers, researchers and the general public after he was gone.
Williams’ daughter Zelda, along with several other scientists, friends, authors and stars, paid tribute to Sacks on Twitter.