Oliver Wolf Sacks (1933-2015) was born in London to Jewish parents who were both doctors. His mother came from an Orthodox family and was among the first female surgeons in the UK. Following in his parents’ footsteps, Sacks became a doctor in 1960. He completed his residencies in neurology in San Francisco and at UCLA, then worked as a neurologist in New York. Based on his work at the Beth Abraham Hospital in the Bronx, Sacks wrote the autobiographical book Awakenings, which became a bestseller and was adapted to the Oscar-nominated film starring Robert De Niro and Robin Williams. In addition to his neurology practice, for nearly fifty years Sacks was a neurology and psychiatry professor at a number of schools, including Columbia and NYU. He has written over a dozen books and countless articles and publications – all by hand or on a typewriter. His writings, translated into over 25 languages, have won numerous awards. The New York Times described him as a “poet laureate of contemporary medicine”. He contributed immensely to the field of neurology, and is credited with inspiring many of the today’s top neuroscientists. Interestingly, Sacks himself suffered from a neurological disorder called prosopagnosia, an inability to recognize faces. Despite being well-known for his great love and compassion for others, Sacks never married, and was celibate for 35 years. He spent time as a bodybuilder (at one point setting a state weightlifting record by squatting 600 pounds), nearly died while mountain climbing solo, held 12 honorary doctorates, and had a planet named after him. Sadly, Sacks passed away last week after a battle with cancer.
Words of the Week
I love to discover potential in people who aren’t thought to have any. – Oliver Sacks
Saul Bass (1920-1996) was born in the Bronx to Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe. Blessed with a talent for art, he made his way to Hollywood as a young man and worked in film advertising. In 1954 he designed his first poster for a major motion picture. Impressed by its ingenuity, the filmmaker asked Bass to put together the opening credits sequence as well. Bass realized he can make the opening and closing credits more than just boring scrawls of peoples’ names. And so, Bass single-handedly invented creative film title sequences that are now standard with all movies. His elaborate and creative sequences quickly became hugely popular. Over a 40-year career, he designed the opening sequences and movie posters for countless blockbusters. Bass also produced short films of his own, one of which won an Oscar (and two more were nominated), as well as a full length science-fiction movie. He served as a director and cameraman, too, most famously for the “shower-murder” scene in Hitchcock’s Psycho. Aside from film-making, Bass designed the logos for dozens of big companies, including AT&T and Quaker. All in all, Bass is considered to be one of the greatest graphic designers of all time, and a major force in the development of film. Of his work, he said: “Design is thinking made visible.” Today’s ‘Google Doodle’ is a tribute to Saul Bass, in honour of his birthday.
Words of the Week
This is the meaning of “Love your fellow as yourself”: Just like you are blind to your own failings, since your self-love covers them up, so, too, should your fellow’s failings be swallowed up and concealed by your love for him. – Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Lubavitch (1789-1866)
Listed by Forbes among the richest people in the world, Ralph Lauren (b. 1939) was born Ralph Lifshitz to Polish-Belorussian immigrants in the Bronx. He began selling ties to his classmates at the Marsha Stern Talmudical Academy. Lauren then studied at Baruch College, followed by several years in the US Army, after which he became a tie salesman. For a long time he would struggle to make a living, until he was finally able to open his own tie store in 1967, called Polo. As his success grew, Lauren released several men’s clothing lines. Today, Polo Ralph Lauren is a multi-billion dollar company. Interestingly, Lauren owns a rare car collection with over 70 unique vehicles – one of the greatest collections in the world. He is also a knight of the French legion.
A fellow New Yorker, Karl Anderson (b. 1959) was born to a Swedish father and Jewish mother. He changed his name to Michael Kors at age 5 when his mother remarried. Influenced by his mother’s modelling career, Kors began designing clothes as a teen and selling them out of his parents’ basement. He was discovered soon after while studying at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology. After working for French fashion giant Celine for many years, Kors left to focus on his own label, which has quickly grown to huge popularity globally. Aside from the fashion world, Kors received the Oliver R. Grace Award for Distinguished Service in Advancing Cancer Research.
Words of the Week
You create your own universe as you go along. – Winston Churchill