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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 425

The late neurologist Oliver Sacks was one of the foremost writers of popular science in recent decades and perhaps the best at explaining the mysterious relationship between mind, brain, and body. Everything in Its Place is a posthumous collection of previously published and unpublished articles; many focus on the realm...

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The late neurologist Oliver Sacks was one of the foremost writers of popular science in recent decades and perhaps the best at explaining the mysterious relationship between mind, brain, and body. Everything in Its Place is a posthumous collection of previously published and unpublished articles; many focus on the realm of neurology, while others once again demonstrate the enormously wide range of his interests in both science and the humanities.

Articles dealing with Sacks's specialty cover subjects drawn from his medical practice such as identification of the symptoms of dementia, the warning signs of Alzheimer's syndrome, and the biological manifestations of mania. He returns again to the complex disorder of Tourette syndrome and the multifarious variety of its indications.

In a like vein, he reveals the biochemical and neurological origins for the common sensation of out-of-body or near-death experiences. Sacks explains that such experiences invariably occur as a byproduct of disease, trauma, accident, or medical manipulation. As an example, he debunks neurosurgeon Eben Alexander's claims of a so-called "heaven" experience while suffering from meningitis, reasoning that the sensation of "seeing God" Alexander described was simply the experience of returning from a coma to the full functioning of his cerebral cortex.

In the article "Humphry Davy: Poet of Chemistry," Sacks discusses his youthful enthrallment with the pioneering chemist and his influence on the author's decision to enter the world of science. He's also eloquent on another early influence, the scientific imagination of H. G. Wells, to whose books he continued to return with pleasure.

On a more speculative plane, he ruminates about the existence of organic, cellular life on other planets, citing cyanobacteria as a likely candidate phylum, and about the evolution of planets with a geological composition similar to that of earth.

The essay "Life Continues" is a sober contemplation of the nature of human mortality, as Sacks describes his ongoing battle with the cancer that would end his life. As he approached that time, Sacks wasn't always optimistic about the emerging developments he observed; he bemoans the effect of mobile devices on human relationships, and in a more somber tone, the looming threat of the devastation that might be wrought by climate change. But he concludes with a down-to-earth vision of how the human race might yet be saved from its own worst impulses:

Though I revere good writing and art and music, it seems to me that only science, aided by human decency, common sense, farsightedness, and concern for the unfortunate and the poor, offers the world any hope in its present morass.

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