Everything in Its Place by Oliver Sacks

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Summary

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 Everything in Its Place is a posthumous collection of previously published and unpublished articles; many focus on the realm of neurology, while others once again demonstrate the enormously wide range of his interests in both science and the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,...

(The entire section is 425 words.)