Uncle Tungsten: Memories of a Chemical Boyhood

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9781509813698: Uncle Tungsten: Memories of a Chemical Boyhood
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‘If you did not think that gallium and iridium could move you, this superb book will change your mind’ The Times

In Uncle Tungsten, Oliver Sacks evokes, with warmth and wit, his upbringing in wartime England. He tells of the large science-steeped family who fostered his early fascination with chemistry. There follow his years at boarding school where, though unhappy, he developed the intellectual curiosity that would shape his later life. And we hear of his return to London, an emotionally bereft ten-year-old who found solace in his passion for learning. Uncle Tungsten radiates all the delight and wonder of a boy’s adventures, and is an unforgettable portrait of an extraordinary young mind.

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Review:

Oliver Sacks's luminous memoir Uncle Tungsten charts the growth of a mind. Born in 1933 into a family of formidably intelligent London Jews, he discovered the wonders of the physical sciences early from his parents and their flock of brilliant siblings, most notably "Uncle Tungsten" (real name, Dave), who "manufactured lightbulbs with filaments of fine tungsten wire". Metals were the substances that first attracted young Oliver, and his descriptions of their colours, textures and properties are as sensuous and romantic as an art lover's rhapsodies over an Old Master. Seamlessly interwoven with his personal recollections is a masterful survey of scientific history, with emphasis on the great chemists like Robert Boyle, Antoine Lavoisier and Humphry Davy (Sacks's personal hero). Yet this is not a dry intellectual autobiography; his parents in particular, both doctors, are vividly sketched. His sociable father loved house calls and "was drawn to medicine because its practice was central in human society", while his shy mother "had an intense feeling for structure... for her [medicine] was part of natural history and biology". For young Oliver, unhappy at the brutal boarding school he was sent to during the war, and afraid that he would become mentally ill like his older brother, chemistry was a refuge in an uncertain world. He would outgrow his passion for metals and become a neurologist, but as readers of Awakenings and The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat know, he would never leave behind his conviction that science is a profoundly human endeavour. --Wendy Smith

Review:

This book is both a heartwarming account of a delightful, eccentric family life and an inspiring record of a remarkable intellectual odyssey. (Mail on Sunday)

The amalgamation of personal recollection and scientific history makes a luminous, inspiring book. (Sunday Telegraph)

Uncle Tungsten is really about the raw joy of scientific understanding; what it is like to be a precocious child discovering the alchemical secrets of reality for the first time: the sheer thrill of finding intelligible patterns in nature. (Guardian)

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Other Popular Editions of the Same Title

9780375704048: Uncle Tungsten: Memories of a Chemical Boyhood

Featured Edition

ISBN 10: 0375704043 ISBN 13: 9780375704048
Publisher: Vintage Books, 2002
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9780375404481: Uncle Tungsten: Memories of a Chemical Boyhood

Alfred..., 2001
Hardcover

9780330390279: Uncle Tungsten: Memories of a Chemical Boyhood

Picador, 2001
Hardcover

9780330390286: Uncle Tungsten: Memories of a Chemical Boyhood

Picador, 2010
Softcover

9780676975376: Uncle Tungsten : Memories of a Chemical Boyhood

Vintag..., 2002
Softcover

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