- Paperback: 352 pages
- Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (September 17, 2002)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0375704043
- ISBN-13: 978-0375704048
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 181 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #61,256 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Uncle Tungsten: Memories of a Chemical Boyhood Paperback – September 17, 2002
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From The New Yorker
As a child of wartime England, Sacks shored himself up against the horrors of the political world by learning all he could about the world of science. In this memoir, he emphasizes the sensuous dimensions of scientific inquiry.
Copyright © 2005 The New Yorker
“A rare gem…. Fresh, joyous, wistful, generous, and tough-minded.”–The New York Times Book Review
“This book underlies everything else Dr. Sacks has written, and is worthy to stand with the great scientific memoirs, for it’s passion, its insight, its sense of history and its felicity.” –Paul Theroux
“Fired by Sacks’s enthusiasm–obviously genuine, impossible to feign–bursting forth in all directions. . . .The book recounts the growth of a formidable young mind opening up to the order and beauty of the material world.” –Newsday
“Sack’s study of a mind [is] as tough as tungsten, as fluid as mercury . . . as precious as gold.” –The Seattle Times
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I can understand why the casual reader would object to the detail that Dr. Sachs uses in his narrative. I probably requires some insight into the history of experimental science to appreciate the story. I am fortunate in having such knowledge and thoroughly enjoyed the book.. It is not a book that can be understood by many without a science background. I giver the book five stars for my own selfish reasons.
In this book, the origin of his amazing mind becomes more explicit. First of all, he was born into what must be a most remarkable family. In the 1940s, both his father and mother were practicing physicians and his many aunts and uncles were all involved deeply in science. They also provided him with an amazing amount of encouragement and freedom. When as a boy of 8 or 9 he developed a passion for chemistry, his family was able to allow him to set up an actual lab in his house, and to provide him the time, freedom and resources to re-live much of the development of chemistry for himself.
Not only chemistry, but they arranged for an amazing array of experiences--he dissected the body of a young girl when he was but 14, his mother would bring home fetuses from stillbirths, he was treated as an adult with serious interests. The whole story induced in me a sort of nostalgia for the freedoms of childhood which have pretty much vanished in the modern world. He himself notes that when, after 6 or more years of independent exploration of the world of chemistry, he finally was taught chemistry in the classroom, he found it dull and uninspiring. Our kids today have so little opportunity to touch and taste and smell life. They are so bound by tests and safety regulations and our own fears.
I found the book a revelation of the development of a gifted mind. His sensual enthusiasm for science, his broad reading in literature and even philosophy and history while still a boy, seem remarkable to me. I can see this book being given to a young person who has an interest in science, to spark a new way of looking at science, not as a collection of known facts, but as a narrative of human beings obsessed with understanding, groping their way towards knowledge.
I have long had an interest in the lives of medical researchers, who worked with a passion to understand dreadful diseases, but this is the first time I ever had a hint that chemistry was a story about people, that the knowledge of this subject also has a romance to it.
There were a few places where I skimmed past some of the more technical explanations. But what a wonderful introduction this would be to the study of chemistry for a young person. I loved it.