80 Oliver Sacks Quotes from Famous British Neurologist

British-born Oliver Sacks was a renowned neurologist and author celebrated for his compassionate exploration of unusual neurological disorders.

Growing up in wartime London and educated at Oxford, he embarked on a medical career that took him to the U.S., where he notably documented the fleeting recovery of encephalitis lethargica patients using L-dopa in his famous book “Awakenings”.

Oliver Sacks

Sacks, a Guggenheim fellow and university professor, not only illuminated the lives of his patients with empathy but also shared his personal medical experiences, contributing profoundly to neuroscience and literature until his death from cancer in 2015.

Oliver Sacks is the author of books such as Musicophilia and Awakenings.

I have made a list of the top quotes by Oliver Sacks.

Best Oliver Sacks Quotes


I invariably reply to people under 10, over 90 or in prison. ~ Oliver Sacks.


It is up to me now to choose how to live out the months that remain to me. ~ Oliver Sacks.


Eccentricity is like having an accent. It’s what “other” people have. ~ Oliver Sacks.


I love to discover potential in people who aren’t thought to have any. ~ Oliver Sacks.


I feel I should be trying to complete my life, whatever completing a life means. ~ Oliver Sacks.


I don’t so much fear death as I do wasting life. ~ Oliver Sacks.

I appreciated that all animals have some form of mental life that reflects the architecture of their nervous system. ~ Oliver Sacks.

There is among doctors, in acute hospitals at least, a presumption of stupidity in their patients. ~ Oliver Sacks.


I often feel that life is about to begin, only to realize it is almost over. ~ Oliver Sacks.

Music, uniquely among the arts, is both completely abstract and profoundly emotional. ~ Oliver Sacks.

People will make a life in their own terms, whether they are deaf or colorblind or autistic or whatever. And their world will be quite as rich and interesting and full as our world. ~ Oliver Sacks.


If we have youth, beauty, blessed gifts, strength, if we find fame, fortune, favor, fulfillment, it is easy to be nice, to turn a warm heart to the world. ~ Oliver Sacks.

In examining disease, we gain wisdom about anatomy and physiology and biology. In examining the person with disease, we gain wisdom about life. ~ Oliver Sacks.

Famous Oliver Sacks Quotes

Empirical science, empiricism, takes no account of the soul, no account of what constitutes and determines personal being. ~ Oliver Sacks.

The power of music to integrate and cure. . . is quite fundamental. It is the profoundest nonchemical medication. ~ Oliver Sacks.

Perception is never purely in the present – it has to draw on experience of the past. ~ Oliver Sacks.


Creativity involves the depth of a mind, and many, many depths of unconsciousness. ~ Oliver Sacks.

One does not see with the eyes; one sees with the brain, which has dozens of different systems for analyzing the input from the eyes. ~ Oliver Sacks.

Language, that most human invention, can enable what, in principle, should not be possible. It can allow all of us, even the congenitally blind, to see with another person’s eyes. ~ Oliver Sacks.

The power of music, whether joyous or cathartic must steal on one unawares, come spontaneously as a blessing or a grace -. ~ Oliver Sacks.

I suspect that music has qualities both of speech and writing – partly built in, partly individually constructed – and this goes on all through one’s life. ~ Oliver Sacks.


The power of music and the plasticity of the brain go together very strikingly, especially in young people. ~ Oliver Sacks.

We speak not only to tell other people what we think, but to tell ourselves what we think. Speech is a part of thought. ~ Oliver Sacks.

Inspiring Oliver Sacks Quotes

Very young children love and demand stories, and can understand complex matters presented as stories, when their powers of comprehending general concepts, paradigms, are almost nonexistent. ~ Oliver Sacks.


I have to live in the richest, deepest, most productive way I can. ~ Oliver Sacks.

Studies by Andrew Newberg and others have shown that long-term practice of meditation produces significant alterations in cerebral blood flow in parts of the brain related to attention, emotion, and some autonomic functions. ~ Oliver Sacks.

I was always the youngest boy in my class at high school. I have retained this feeling of being the youngest, even though now I am almost the oldest person I know. ~ Oliver Sacks.

Music is part of being human. ~ Oliver Sacks.

In general, people are afraid to acknowledge hallucinations because they immediately see them as a sign of something awful happening to the brain, whereas in most cases they’re not. ~ Oliver Sacks.

Music can lift us out of depression or move us to tears – it is a remedy, a tonic, orange juice for the ear. ~ Oliver Sacks.

When I was five, I am told, and asked what my favorite things in the world were, I answered, smoked salmon and Bach. ~ Oliver Sacks.


It really is a very odd business that all of us, to varying degrees, have music in our heads. ~ Oliver Sacks.

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. ~ Oliver Sacks.

Top Oliver Sacks Quotes

I always wanted to get people’s stories and access to their lives. I feel I’m at the interface of biography and biology, person and person-hood. I remember one man with Tourettes, who wrote and said that he had ‘a tourettised soul’, it affects one and one affects it – there’s a liaison of a sort. A condition is sometimes a collusion, and sometimes a compromise. ~ Oliver Sacks.

Every act of perception, is to some degree an act of creation, and every act of memory is to some degree an act of imagination. ~ Oliver Sacks.

Sign language is the equal of speech, lending itself equally to the rigorous and the poetic, to philosophical analysis or to making love. ~ Oliver Sacks.

Fascinating, Doidge’s book is a remarkable and hopeful portrait of the endless adaptability of the human brain. ~ Oliver Sacks.

This drove home to me how barbaric our own medicine and our own customs are in the “civilized” world, where we put ill or demented people away and try to forget them. ~ Oliver Sacks.

First thing about being a patient-you have to learn patience. ~ Oliver Sacks.

Although I think it is wonderful to have the whole world of music available in something that small and to have it conveyed with such fidelity almost straight into the brain, I think the technology is also a danger. ~ Oliver Sacks.

The same areas which are active in listening to music are also active when you imagine music, and this includes the motor areas, too. That explains why earlier, even though I was only thinking of the mazurka, I was thinking in terms of movement. ~ Oliver Sacks.

Popular Oliver Sacks Quotes

Waking consciousness is dreaming – but dreaming constrained by external reality. ~ Oliver Sacks.

We see with the eyes, but we see with the brain as well. And seeing with the brain is often called imagination. ~ Oliver Sacks.

A profound intriguing and compelling guide to the intricacies of the human brain. ~ Oliver Sacks.


Music has a bonding power, it’s primal social cement. ~ Oliver Sacks.

I feel a sudden clear focus and perspective. There is no time for anything inessential. ~ Oliver Sacks.

A disease is never a mere loss or excess. There is always a reaction on the part of the organism or individual to restore, replace or compensate for and to preserve its identity, however strange the means may be. ~ Oliver Sacks.

Psychotic hallucinations, whether they are visual or vocal, they address you. They accuse you. They seduce you. They humiliate you. They jeer at you. You interact with them. ~ Oliver Sacks.

I am a man of vehement disposition, with violent enthusiasms, and extreme immoderation in all my passions. ~ Oliver Sacks.

The difficulty lies, not in the new ideas, but in escaping from the old ones, which ramify, for those brought up as most of us have been, into every corner of our minds. ~ Oliver Sacks.

Visual illusions, too, fascinated me; they showed how intellectual understanding, insight, and even common sense were powerless against the force of perceptual distortions. Gibson’s inverting glasses showed the power of the mind to rectify optical distortions, where visual illusions showed its inability to correct perceptual ones. ~ Oliver Sacks.

We now know that memories are not fixed or frozen, like Proust’s jars of preserves in a larder, but are transformed, disassembled, reassembled, and recategorized with every act of recollection. ~ Oliver Sacks.

In terms of brain development, musical performance is every bit as important educationally as reading or writing. ~ Oliver Sacks.

Ultimate Oliver Sacks Quotes

Although it’s up to me as a neurologist to diagnose the disease and to think in therapeutic terms, I always want to address the person as much as the disease, and I’m very glad my own doctor feels similarly. I’m not just a case to him, I’m a person responding to the situation. So I somehow sit between the biology and the humanist point of view. ~ Oliver Sacks.

Music evokes emotion and emotion can bring it’s memory. ~ Oliver Sacks.

I regard music therapy as a tool of great power in many neurological disorders – Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s – because of its unique capacity to organize or reorganize cerebral function when it has been damaged. ~ Oliver Sacks.

There is only one cardinal rule: One must always listen to the patient. ~ Oliver Sacks.

None of us had ever encountered, or even imagined, such a power of amnesia, the possibility of a pit into which everything, every experience, every event, would fathomlessly drop, a bottomless memory-hole that would engulf the whole world. ~ Oliver Sacks.

There will be no one like us when we are gone, but then there is no one like anyone else, ever. When people die, they cannot be replaced. They leave holes that cannot be filled, for it is the fate – the genetic and neural fate – of every human being to be a unique individual, to find his own path, to live his own life, to die his own death. ~ Oliver Sacks.

The miracle is that, in most cases, he succeeds – for the powers of survival, of the will to survive, and to survive as a unique inalienable individual, are absolutely, the strongest in our being: stronger than any impulses, stronger than disease. ~ Oliver Sacks.

He died at home in his library, surrounded by the books he loved. ~ Oliver Sacks.

If a man has lost a leg or an eye, he knows he has lost a leg or an eye; but if he has lost a self – himself – he cannot know it, because he is no longer there to know it. ~ Oliver Sacks.

Wise Oliver Sacks Quotes

If migraine patients have a common and legitimate second complaint besides their migraines, it is that they have not been listened to by physicians. Looked at, investigated, drugged, charged, but not listened to. ~ Oliver Sacks.

We are all creatures of our upbringings, our cultures, our times. ~ Oliver Sacks.

The past which is not recoverable in any other way is embedded, as if in amber, in the music, and people can regain a sense of identity… ~ Oliver Sacks.

If a man with a dog sits quietly enjoying music and smiling, his dog might sit down beside him and smile, too. But who knows whether the dog is having a comparable experience or whether the dog is simply happy that his master is happy. ~ Oliver Sacks.

The users of a language, above all, will tend to a naïve realism, to see their language as a reflection of reality, not as a construct. ~ Oliver Sacks.

I have often seen quite demented patients recognize and respond vividly to paintings and delight in the act of painting at a time when they are scarcely responsive, disoriented, and out of it. ~ Oliver Sacks.

Memory is dialogic and arises not only from direct experience but from the intercourse of many minds. ~ Oliver Sacks.

Biologically, physiologically, we are not so different from each other; historically, as narratives – we are each of us unique. ~ Oliver Sacks.


All the trouble starts when people forget they’re human. ~ Oliver Sacks.

Much more of the brain is devoted to movement than to language. Language is only a little thing sitting on top of this huge ocean of movement. ~ Oliver Sacks.

I think there is no culture in which music is not very important and central. That’s why I think of us as a sort of musical species. ~ Oliver Sacks.

Awakening, basically, is a reversal of this: the patient ceases to feel the presence of illness and the absence of the world, and comes to feel the absence of his illness and the full presence of the world. ~ Oliver Sacks.

When people die, they cannot be replaced. They leave holes that cannot be filled, for it is the fate – the genetic and neural fate – of every human being to be a unique individual, to find his own path, to live his own life, to die his own death. ~ Oliver Sacks.

So these were the 80 top Oliver Sacks quotes and sayings on life, music, empathy and illness.

If you like these quotes and sayings, then you can also read my other posts on Nouman Ali Khan quotes and Ole Hallesby quotes.

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Chandan Negi
Chandan Negi

I’m the Founder of Internet Pillar - I love sharing quotes and motivational content to inspire and motivate people - #quotes #motivation #internetpillar