Oliver Sacks' autobiography leads us on a tour of the development of a "scientific" brain, from reminiscences of his large and quirky family in London to a Dickensian boarding school during the Blitz bombings to his awakening love of chemistry. It is part memoir, part paean to the symmetry and infinite beauty of science. Funny, sad, tragic and inspiring by turns, it reveals how Sacks became both a scientist and a caring human.
I greatly enjoyed _The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat_, but this book, simply put, was too dull for me. I don't have an interest in chemistry so that alone should have stopped me from buying the book, but I thought that my interest in him, plus WWII London would be more than enough to interest me in this... unfortunately, WWII London serves as little more than a backdrop to a rather small portion of the book. And for all of the effort that he put into chemistry as a child, the end, it was a shock at the end the ease in which he abandoned it. I guess I really don't know how I feel about the book... some sections were just very slow moving for me and I didn't really have anything to relate to or a common interest in it. There were a few funny anecdotes, but not really enough. I even toyed with the idea of not finishing it for an hour or so. I am glad I finished it, but really, this is a book best suited for science buffs, not history buffs.
Sacks describes how his experiences as a boy were twined around a fascination with chemistry. His family members were deeply involved in science and his parents evem encouraged him to set up his own lab and recreate famous experiments - as well as his own. This book is full of the wonder of a child at the vivid world he discovered in his own magic garden. Along the way we learn a lot about the history of chemistry and discoveries. This isn't like any other autobiography I've read. It's not so much about the events and people in his world (although they are there) as about the workings of a young mind. I wish he had included more about how the inner illumination of a child's curiosity and rapture is transmuted at puberty, but his recounting of it is full of wonder.