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on 17 May 2014
In this childhood autobiography Oliver Sachs revisits his childhood growing up in a North London Jewish family the son of two G.P. parents.
Young Oliver had an extended family full of many unusual characters including the eponomous "uncle tungsten" - his Uncle who ran a light bulb manufacturing plant, and was a mine of information about chemistry. another uncle was a Physicist and introduced Oliver to many of the wonders of science and nature.
The book traces the historical origins of Chemistry, interwoven with Olivers own discovery of Science set against a background of impending war in Europe in the late 1930's.
Oliver Sachs eventually went on the become a "celebrity" Neurologist & author in the U.S. but it is clear from this book that he retains many profoundly moving and exciting memories of a childhood in Britain learning the wonders of Chemistry.
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on 20 April 2009
Well written and a really enjoyable read. Boyhood in North London spanning WW2 years playing around with chemicals which you just wouldn't get to touch these days what with HSE regs. Also background to the man who went on to write so entertainingly about the brain and its workings.
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on 10 May 2010
I read Uncle Tungsten a long time ago, so cannot recall many details; but I do recall being totally gripped. I bought the book recently as a present for a friend who was next to me in hospital after an operation and we were chatting about chemistry and stuff. He had heard of Oliver Sacks, but not this particular title. I thought it would be of particular interest to him as he is a chemist (I am not). I have since learned that he too is reading it with total absorption. I can also highly recommend "Seeing Voices" about being deaf and the evolution of sign language in different parts of the world and between hearing adults and deaf children. Told almost in the manner of a thriller, it was a riveting page turner and very moving. Oliver Sacks writes with extraordinary lucidity and with great compassion and is a must for any reader.
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on 18 September 2013
Oliver Sacks is a really good writer, and here again he shows what he can do. A fascinating and privileged childhood despite some parts (boarding school) which were far from. His family was clearly wonderful, gifted, and willing to devote a lot of time to the young Oliver. His enthusiasm for chemistry as a lad mirrors my own; but his dedicated pursuit by far surpasses mine, and the fact that the family could afford to set him up with his own lab reminds me of Charles Darwin rather than either myself of my childhood friends. For anyone with an interest in chemistry, or just an interest in how a boy destined to be a real original thinker and therapist was raised, this is highly recommended.
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on 6 January 2014
OK I have read and enjoyed his books covering psychology, neurology, ferns, eye conditions, illusions, and music, and now I find he is also pretty much a self-trained chemist with a strong understanding of physics. Oliver Sacks is clearly something of a polymath, which is rare enough in itself, but a polymath who can write engaging popular science on all these topics (while sprinkling each book with scattered chunks of equally interesting autobiography) must surely be close to unique.
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on 22 February 2017
The book was in perfect condition and arrived very quickly after my order was placed!
I think this is a brilliant book having read it on Audible a year ago... Now I have it in print I can read all the additional notes to the story.
Oliver sacks was an amazing man.
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on 17 May 2014
To follow the burning enthusiasm of a small boy is most touching. The progress of Chemistry alongside his own growth as a thinker is exciting and touching. I am not a chemist, but this has not spoilt my delight in his enjoyment . I have still 30 % to read.
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on 18 June 2015
Love this author
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on 27 December 2005
"... I wanted to lay hands on cobaltite and niccolite, and compounds or minerals of manganese and molybdenum, of uranium and chromium ... I wanted to pulverize them, treat them with acid, roast them, reduce them - whatever was necessary - so I could extract their metals myself."
In the life of a pre-pubescent boy, whatever happened to the simple pleasures of sports, chasing girls to pull their pigtails, or playing cowboys and Indians?
UNCLE TUNGSTEN is the childhood memoir of Oliver Sacks, who, as the son of two physicians in 1930s and 40s London, adopts more cerebral interests. Actually, let's call them obsessions, e.g., Mendeleev's Table of the Elements:
"I copied it into my exercise book and carried it everywhere ... I spent hours now, enchanted, totally absorbed, wandering, making discoveries, in the enchanted garden of Mendeleev."
Oliver's propensity for intellectual pursuits was further encouraged by his two maternal uncles, Dave and Abe, two scientist/business entrepreneurs, the former nicknamed UNCLE TUNGSTEN for his preoccupation with that element and his process for manufacturing tungsten light bulbs.
This engaging and instructive volume is the author's narrative of his life from age 6 to 15, beginning in 1939 at the beginning of WWII, when he was protectively sent out of London to a boarding school. Returning in 1943, he set up his own household lab and began experimenting with a vengeance, his chief interest being metals and their properties. The text is leavened with descriptions of his home life, his parents and brothers, and summaries of the achievements of giants in the field of Chemistry: John Dalton, Robert Boyle, the Curies, Antoine Lavoisier, Dmitri Mendeleev, Ernest Rutherford, Michael Faraday, and others. UNCLE TUNGSTEN is a short, popular history of the science.
I'm not awarding 5 stars because obsessions, especially someone else's, can become tiresome. Even Oliver's parents, responsible as any for his scientific curiosity, could be driven to distraction. At one point on a family auto trip, the young Sacks blathers on about one of his favorite elements for twenty minutes in the back seat until his father shouts, "Enough about thallium!"
By the age of 15, Oliver's preoccupation with chemistry began to ebb as the hormones of adolescence began to flow. The boy, becoming a young man, discovers music and sex. Those then around him should thank the Almighty for puberty; he was becoming an insufferable eccentric. He grew up to be a neurologist.
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on 15 September 2015
I found this book too heavy on chemistry for a nonscientist like me. Some of the information was very fascinating but there was too much. I was more interested in the family side of his life.
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