Oliver Sacks Dies at 82; Neurologist and Author Explored the Brain’s Quirks
And there’s a tiny little story in there.
Growing up in England, a small boy in the years just before World War II, Dr. Sacks was surrounded by cousins, aunts and uncles — his mother was the 16th of 18 children. The family overflowed with physicists and mathematicians, teachers and chemists, including Uncle Tungsten, as his Uncle Dave, a manufacturer of light bulbs with tungsten filaments, was known.
I like scandium, I don’t know why. I sometimes have this absurd dream of a hamburger made of scandium. It is rare but it’s also common in the sun. A sunny element, of which we are only permitted a little bit on this earth. And, of course, it’s particularly exciting because it was one of the elements that was predicted by Mendeleev. It had to be there. No. 21, and it has 21-ness written all over it.
And then one day he was off visiting Theodore Gray who took him around to see a local factory where:
After the delightful lunch, it was time to visit the local company I had arranged a tour of. Some friends there have donated about a dozen very nice samples for my periodic table. I was pretty sure Sacks would have fun there, and he did. He particularly delighted in the beautiful multi-colored inorganic salts I can’t show you pictures of for confidentiality reasons. But the highlight of the visit was when they served him a scandium hamburger complete with tungsten leaf lettuce and titanium onions (with sodium iodide and cobalt iodide for salt and pepper respectively).
And that scandium hamburger was made from scandium that I had bought in Kazakhstan, refined in Moscow and shipped over to the mid-West. For use, just to complete the circle, in light bulbs which do not use his uncle’s tungsten.