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Oliver Sacks, famed neurologist, dies in New York

Famed neurologist and author Oliver Sacks died of cancer at his home in New York City at 82.
Dr. Oliver Sacks at his home in 2012. (Photo by Christopher Anderson/Magnum)
Dr. Oliver Sacks at his home in 2012.

Famed neurologist and author Oliver Sacks died of cancer at his home in New York City at 82, a personal assistant to Sacks confirmed to NBC.

Sacks wrote several best-settling books on neurology and other medical conditions based on his patient studies -- and sometimes himself -- including "Awakenings," "A Leg to Stand On," and "The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat."

Several of his writings have been adapted into films, plays, operas, and more. "Awakenings," a book about an epidemic of encephalitis lethargica, or "sleeping sickness," was turned into a film starring Robert De Niro and Robin Williams and earned three Oscar nominations. Sacks also wrote a book on different types of hallucinations and later did a TED talk on those findings. 

The London-born scientist taught neurology at prestigious universities such as Columbia University and New York University. 

Writing in the Times last February, Sacks revealed that a melanoma diagnosis he had lived with for the past nine years had recently spread to his liver and was terminal. He wrote again for the Times just this month of his connection to Judaism through his life up until his final months. 

"I cannot pretend I am without fear. But my predominant feeling is one 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," Sacks wrote in the February Times op-ed. "Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure."

A blog post on the Oliver Sacks website this month announced the launch of the Oliver Sacks Foundation, a non-profit organization educating the public on the human brain and sharing Sack's work. 

NYU School of Medicine wrote in a statement Sunday morning of Sack's "breakthrough work."

"NYU School of Medicine acknowledges with sadness the passing of our esteemed colleague Oliver Sacks, MD, whose breakthrough work in the fields of neurology and neuro psychiatry led to important understandings in these fields. Equally important, his prolific, award-winning writing touched the lives of millions around the world. His passing is a tremendous loss for all and we extend our deepest condolences to his family, friends and countless admirers," the statement read.