Oliver Sacks, the neurologist and writer who penned best-selling books of case studies about rare neurological disorders, has died of cancer at age 82. Sacks authored a wide-range of books, including the landmark The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat and Awakenings, as well as travelogues, memoirs, and a meditation on music. He is survived by his partner Billy Hayes.

Sacks was born in London to Orthodox Jewish parents, went to medical school in Oxford, and moved to the U.S. for an internship in San Francisco and a residency at UCLA. Sacks was tight-lipped about his sexuality for most of his life, but wrote about being gay openly for the first time in his memoir On the Move: A Life, published this year. In California, as a Vanity Fair profile explains, "in his spare hours he made a series of sexual breakthroughs, indulged in staggering bouts of pharmacological experimentation, underwent a fierce regimen of bodybuilding at Muscle Beach (for a time he held a California record, after he performed a full squat with 600 pounds across his shoulders), and racked up more than 100,000 leather-clad miles on his motorcycle."

He then gave all that up, apart from the neurology, and moved to New York to work as a clinician at Beth Abraham Hospital in the Bronx. Subsequently, he kept his nose to the grindstone as a clinician and writer. The New York Times writes:

More than a million copies of his books are in print in the United States, his work was adapted for film and stage, and he received about 10,000 letters a year. (“I invariably reply to people under 10, over 90 or in prison,” he once said.)

His first literary success was the book Awakenings, published in 1973 about a group of patients at Beth Abraham with an unusual form of encephalitis. The Times again:

Dr. Sacks gave them the drug L-dopa, which was just beginning to be recognized as a treatment for similar symptoms in patients with Parkinson’s, then watched as they emerged into a world they did not recognize. Some responded better than others — both to the drug and to their changed circumstances — and Dr. Sacks used his book to explore the differences and celebrate his patients’ limited rebirth.

Robin Williams played Sacks's character in the book's 1990 film adaptation.

Vanity Fair writer Lawrence Weschler hypothesizes that Sacks's breadth of life experience, particularly his drug use and homosexuality, gave him a radical level of empathy for patients that allowed him to see mental activity his fellow doctors had missed.

Sacks lived on City Island for 20 years, then moved to Greenwich Village in 2000. In this clip, he explains how he came to buy a house on the Bronx island in the middle of an eight-mile swim, then kept on swimming.

Here, Sacks goes into detail about life as an outer-borough resident cut off from public transit, explaining that brutal traffic drove him to give up his small-town life on the island.

The Times received a letter from Sacks's longtime assistant and friend Kate Edgar on August 10th saying, “He is still writing with great clarity. We are pretty sure he will go with fountain pen in hand.”

Sacks wrote eloquently in February about how being diagnosed with terminal cancer changed his perspective on life. He concluded the essay:

I cannot pretend I am without fear. But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved; I have been given much and I have given something in return; I have read and traveled and thought and written. I have had an intercourse with the world, the special intercourse of writers and readers.

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.