Stephen Jay Gould’s Charming Poem for Oliver Sacks’s Birthday, Read by Bill Hayes


during what he knew would be his final year. For decades, he celebrated his dual love of chemistry and birthdays by acquiring a physical form of the chemical element with the periodic table number corresponding to the age he was turning that year.

On Sacks’s gadolinium birthday in 1997, the great science writer Stephen Jay Gould composed a very bad, very lovely poem celebrating his friend’s scientific loves and lovable eccentricities. This playful cascade of allusions to Sacks’s influential books and the singular enchantments of his personhood appears in On the Move (public library) — Sacks’s sublime memoir of a life fully lived, in which he recounts Gould’s warm generosity in hosting birthday parties, writing birthday poems, and always baking a birthday cake using his mother’s recipe.

Stephen Jay Gould (left) and Oliver Sacks (photograph by Bill Hayes from Insomniac City:…
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