A Tribute to Oliver Sacks on His 90th Birthday

Ode to a dreamer of dreams

Nita Jain
Medical Myths and Models
2 min readJul 9, 2023


Dear Dr. Sacks,

Like the late Carl Sagan, you had a gentle way of magnifying everything into brilliant resolution and reminding us of our place in the universe. Through your writing, you bring into focus which things matter. I was quite delighted to read of your love for the physical sciences, also beautifully described in Frank Wilczek’s A Beautiful Question.

Beauty can truly be found in any field or context and Wilczek’s coverage of the concept reminds me of that Gerard Manley Hopkins’ poem, “Pied Beauty,” in which the author pronounces, “Glory be to God for dappled things.” As Adam Frank puts it,

“Science — under all its theories, equations, experiments and data — is really trying to teach us to see the sacred in the mundane and the profound in the prosaic.”

Indeed, few experiences prove as humbling as observing the heavens. The night sky brings to mind the opening lines of a personal favorite: “Let us go then, you and I/ When the evening is spread out against the sky/ Like a patient etherized upon a table.”

Meanwhile, consciousness continues to prove an elusive idea, as you mentioned. Is it a purely biological phenomenon or does it extend into the philosophical and spiritual realms? I think the most beautiful aspect of our universe is the sense of infinite mystery surrounding it; as Anaïs Nin explains it, “The possession of knowledge does not kill the sense of wonder and mystery. There is always more mystery.”

From your stories of patient case studies to your descriptions on the benefits of musical therapy, your words offer comfort and solace amidst adversity and uncertainty. The practice of slow medicine allows one to grow closer to his fellow brethren and fulfill the insightful words of Countee Cullen:

Your grief and mine
Must intertwine
Like sea and river
Be fused and mingle
Diverse yet single
Forever and forever

I hope to embody the same patience, compassion, dignity, and grace that you exemplified in your daily life. As one chapter closes and another begins, I wish you laughter and joy in the company of friends and family, exchanges of love among kindred spirits, courage as you confront your final battles, and contentment in the knowledge that you have touched more lives than you know. From the deepest parts of my being, I thank you. Stay gold, dear Captain, our Captain.

Card design created by Jason Hart of Special Days



Nita Jain
Medical Myths and Models

I share health and science insights to improve your quality of life | nitajain.substack.com