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Uncle Tungsten: Memories of a Chemical Boyhood (Englisch) Taschenbuch – 24. Februar 2010

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Oliver Sacks's luminous memoir 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 colors, 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 endeavor. --Wendy Smith -- Dieser Text bezieht sich auf eine andere Ausgabe: Taschenbuch.


"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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Format: Taschenbuch
Wohl handelt es sich um eine von sonst sehr seltenen Autobiographien, die sich auf das kindlich bis knapp jugendliche Lebensalter zwischen 10 und 14 Jahren konzentrieren. Doch dies bildet ohnedies nur den Hintergrund (auch wenn dieser doch recht häufig etwas überzeichnet erscheint) für das, was letztlich im Zentrum steht, nämlich ein außerordentlich erhellender Abriss zentraler Entwicklungen in der oft noch jungen Wissenschaft der Chemie. So kommen neben den (zahlreichen) Anverwandten des Autors auch Größen wie Marie Curie oder Ernest Rutherford, Humphrey Davy oder Henri Bequerel zu Wort. Dabei eröffnen sich Einblicke in die Welt der Mineralien ebenso, wie die innere Ordnung des Periodensystems der Elemente zu faszinieren vermag.
In Summe ein durchaus gelungenes Werk, bei dem gerne über manches deutlich zu weit führendes autobiographisches Element hinweggesehen werden kann.
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Interesting early life of Dr. Sacks in north London. Sacks is always such a thoughtful and calm writer....I always look forward to reading his work.
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Die hilfreichsten Kundenrezensionen auf Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 4.6 von 5 Sternen 165 Rezensionen
68 von 71 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen A mesmerizing tour of the elements 20. August 2002
Von ealovitt - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe Verifizierter Kauf
"It often happens that the mind of a person who is learning a new science, has to pass through all the phases which the science itself has exhibited in its historical evolution." (Stanislao Cannizzaro, Italian chemist, 1826 - 1910).
These words had a powerful resonance for Oliver Sacks. When the gifted neurologist wrote his autobiography, he also wrote a history of chemistry as recapitulated through his own childhood experiences. He grew up in a very scientific family--his mother and father were physicians, and his uncle Dave (the 'Uncle Tungsten' of the title) was both a chemist and a business entrepreneur, who "would spend hundreds of hours watching all the processes in his factories: the sintering and drawing of the tungsten, the making of the coiled coils and molybdenum supports for the filaments, the filling of the bulbs with argon..."
Uncle Tungsten allowed his nephew to perform chemical experiments in his laboratory, which contained samples of almost every element. Oliver's "physics uncle," Uncle Abe had a small telescopic observatory on top of his house, where he demonstrated the wonders of spectroscopy to his nephew: "The whole visible universe--planets, stars, distant galaxies--presented itself for spectroscopic analysis, and I got a vertiginous, almost ecstatic satisfaction from seeing familiar terrestrial elements out in space, seeing what I had known only intellectually before, that the elements were not just terrestrial but cosmic, were indeed the building blocks of the universe."
No wonder young Oliver grew up with a love for the elements and their chemistry!
Rarely do I read an autobiography and envy the author his childhood--most recent examples of this genre, e.g. "A Child Called 'It'" are grim, wailing texts--and that's not to say that Oliver didn't have his bad moments, too. He endured two horrible years at a Dickensian boarding school while London was being bombed by the Germans.
For the most part though, his formative years were spent in a fantastic 'castle of the elements' where his "many uncles and aunts and cousins served as a sort of archive or reference library" to his enquiring mind.
In "Uncle Tungsten," Dr. Sacks shares his learning experiences with us and in the process, writes a far more lucid history of chemistry and physics than any I've ever found in a textbook. He also takes his readers on a mesmerizing, personalized tour of the elements. If you enjoyed P.W. Atkin's quirky "The Periodic Kingdom" or Primo Levi's wonderful memoir "The Periodic Table," I can almost guarantee you'll fall in love with "Uncle Tungsten."
34 von 35 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Rediscover the curious child in you! 9. Dezember 2001
Von Julie S. - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
Oliver Sacks, best known for writing about the fantastic consequences of neurological abnormalities (Awakenings, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat), takes us on a journey through his childhood in Uncle Tungsten. Deftly mixing the most intriguing aspects of the history of chemistry with his own experiences as a boy and adding the spark of a unique writing ability, he's utilized the principles of chemical lab work to produce something new and different--a book that revels in the most fundamental aspects of exploring the physical sciences.
Sacks was fortunate to be born into a family heavily composed of scientists: physicians, chemists, physicists, and metallurgists, like his "Uncle Tungsten." Both of his parents were physicians and indulged his curiousities by allowing him to set up his own lab in their house, where he familiarized himself with the history of chemistry by recreating many famous experiments and also trying many more of his own devising. Descriptions of his family life and his exploration into science are filled with wonder and with love for the world we live in.
Uncle Tungsten is a book to relish--written in everyday language, not in stuffy scientific terms--a book filled with the joy of youth, the fascination of discovery, and the wonderment of life. I would recommend it to anyone interested in science and nature, to anyone trying to understand those around them who love science so much, and to anyone in junior high or high school who wonders why they have to study chemistry!
30 von 31 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
4.0 von 5 Sternen the love time can't diminish 2. November 2001
Von NotATameLion - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
It is always a joy to read Dr. Sacks. He is a sensitive, honest, and caring author. His other books (with the exception of "A Leg to Stand On") are all reports of his interactions with people exceptional neurological conditions. In "Uncle Tungsten," Dr. Sacks writes about his own past.
Sacks is a truly gifted writer. Some of his pieces in the past have stunned me with their beauty. That said, he has never created a fuller, more compelling portrait than the depiction he gives of his mother here. What a special woman she must have been. He clearly loves her still. This book is as much of a love story as it is a history.
Sack's recollections are laced through with his early encounters with science in its many forms. He speaks lovingly of his interactions with Chemistry. The education his mother provided him in anatomy also looms large in the images of his early years.
While I have always been a fan of Sacks because of his insights into the human condition, I can see the special appeal this book would have to those who have a love for science (my wife loves biology). Sacks writes of it with passion and awe. It was interesting for me, and I've never been much of a fan of science.
I recommend this book.
24 von 25 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Joy, curiosity, light 20. November 2001
Von Karen Sampson Hudson - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
Oliver Sacks' memoir is shining, enlivened by curiosity, filled with joy. He has recaptured the boy he was, and "Uncle Tungsten" lets us experience the world as that boy knew it. My husband is a cloud physicist, and reading this book helped me see how he became entranced by science, by the wonders of the physical world, metamorphosing even as we look upon it.
Born in l933, well before television cartoons and video games, Sacks was left to his own devices. His broad intelligence led him down many roads, and his tolerant parents indulged his love for explorations in chemistry. During WW II, when he was six years old, he was evacuated from London home to a country boarding school, where the headmaster inflicted physical and emotional abuse upon his young charges. The trauma Sack underwent there, in addition to the horrors visited upon England by the war, caused him to lose faith in the omnipotent God of his Jewish tradition. His new faith became science, and he brought to it all the passion and dedication of his orthodox forebears.
In adolescence, sadly, he lost this flaming enthusiam, much as many teenagers "lose their faith"; and he turned to the conventional medical career his parents envisioned for him. Now, in late mid-life, his spiritual journey has brought him full circle to his early love again. His joy in scientific enquiry will ignite a similar joy in the reader.
15 von 15 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
4.0 von 5 Sternen Wish I'd bought it! 30. Dezember 2001
Von tamara - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
Once in 10th grade, I fell onto the floor in chemistry class after falling asleep in my chair. In other words, I have the scientific bent of wallpaper. Oliver Sacks' marvelous explanations and anecdotes about the development of chemistry would have kept me awake. About 65% of the book is composed of such material. It is fascinating (with a few exceptions)and I found myself understanding more science in these 300 or so pages than I picked up in all of high school.
Into this mix, Dr. Sacks seamlessly weaves stories of his own childhood. To me, these stories were the highlights of the book. Especially riveting are the stories of his "exile" to boarding school, sent away from London for his own safety at the height of WWII and, even better, his stories about his boyhood obsession with chemistry. As a child, he created everything from flaming compounds to noxious clouds which sent him fleeing outside and which filled his parents' home with toxic gases. Then, there's the highly entertaining exploding cuttlefish incident which rendered a friend's home uninhabitable for months. And I never grew tired of reading about his parents. Both renowned physicians, they were amazingly tolerant of their son's explosions and "stinkogens," but could be surprisingly obtuse when it came to his emotions. One such incident which totally took me aback was his mother's arranging for him to perform an autopsy at age 14 (to his great and understandable dismay).
You'll meet more of this eclectic family -- uncles who were metals experts and pioneers in their fields, an aunt who -- appearing perfect to the outside world -- was wont to blow her nose on the tablecloth in the privacy of her home and many other memorable characters. Perhaps it's just my preference, but I would have preferred more of these stories and a bit less science, even though the pure science part was enlightening, if a bit dry at times. (If you like the human interest angle, as I do, Sacks includes many fascinating and well-written portraits of historic scientific personalities.)
One question I always have is: to buy or to borrow. I borrowed this book from the library, but I wish I'd bought it. I ended up taking copious notes on the science parts, hoping to be able to refer back to this new education and also copying down many of the marvelous family stories so I could continue to enjoy Dr. Sacks' lively choice of words. One of the few times I regret the decision not to buy.
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