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El tío Tungsteno by Oliver Sacks

El tío Tungsteno (original 2001; edition 2009)

by Oliver Sacks

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1,584374,603 (3.98)45
Title:El tío Tungsteno
Authors:Oliver Sacks
Info:ANAGRAMA (2009), Edición: 1st., Perfect Paperback, 350 páginas
Collections:Your library

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Uncle Tungsten: Memories of a Chemical Boyhood by Oliver Sacks (2001)

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English (34)  German (2)  Dutch (1)  All (37)
Showing 1-5 of 34 (next | show all)
Autobiography of his 'chemical childhood'. Fascinating stuff, but left me feeling slightly inadequate - why was I goofing off as a 10 year old when Sacks at that age was reading Curie's bio & replicating her chemistry?
Read June 2006 ( )
  mbmackay | Dec 6, 2015 |
Its not everyday that someone is born who grows up with a natural love for the periodic table and especially metals. I have not read this, but am interested to and I think it could give a little more insight to how important the table of elements is.
  ogroft | Apr 14, 2015 |
Bits of this book were terrific. All the parts about his boyhood, life at school and WWII were terrific. But I'm only giving this book 2 stars because the rest of the book were unreadable by someone like me who has no interest in chemicals, rocks or science. I'm sorry to say that it was wasted on me. I've enjoyed many others of Sack's books, even though they were highly technical, this one felt as if Sack's were writing it for his own enjoyment, and he might just have done that. More power to him. ( )
  sgerbic | Oct 4, 2014 |
I enjoy Oliver Sack's works. For one who is such an accomplished scientific figure in the medical world, his prose writing is so good. "Uncle Tungsten", published first in 2001, is his memoir of his life and times in pre and immediately post war England. Sack's family were Jews who had immigrated to England around the turn of the 20th century. His parents were physicians and his uncles (he came from quite a large family) were scientists and entrepeneurs. Uncle "Tungsten" owned and ran a factory that produced light bulbs and he was deeply knowledgeable about heavy metals that could be used as filaments in these early bulbs. In addition to Uncle Tungsten, Sacks's family members were brainy and colorful characters who are quite fun to read about.

Through Uncle (Dave) "Tungsten", Sacks's intellectual curiosity in chemistry was aroused. (Mathematics was also an obsession.) At an early age, he acquired all manner of chemicals and set up his own laboratory where he conducted experiments to understand better the chemical properties of various elements and compounds. One amazing aspect of the story is how easy it was for Sacks to acquire chemicals that are quite dangerous and how tolerant his parents were of the goings-on in his lab in an attached shed. One cannot imagine such liberality or forbearance today.

In many ways, Sacks's memoir gives the history of chemistry advances in the 19th and 20th century. He describes the breakthrough work of many of the icons of early chemistry -- Boyle, Lavoisier, Davy, Faraday, Mendeleev and others. His burning impulse to understand how the physical world was constructed and interacted is plain to see and marked him as an unusual young person of great intellectual potential.

What's perhaps even more compelling in Sacks's story is his depiction of life before and during the war. Sacks, born in 1933, was shipped off to boarding schools away from London during the Blitz and his memories (many were not happy ones) give a fascinating view of life during this time. His family was closely connected to the Jewish community in London and his stories about this culture are interesting and evocative; he says that this tight knit society ceased to be after the war.

His path through the world of chemistry progresses through increasing levels of complexity. Some of his descriptions of chemical laws and processes are above my understanding; they made me aware of how much about chemistry I have forgotten, or, more likely, never knew. When he reached atomic realms of the periodic table of elements and structure of atomic entities, I was quite lost. Notwithstanding, it's worth slogging through the esoteric parts of the book, if for nothing more than to gain an appreciation of this young man's remarkable intellectual focus and his passion for knowledge. ( )
  stevesmits | Sep 9, 2013 |
A curious mix of wartime memoir and scientific history; intersperses the story of the author's childhood with an overview of the development of chemistry. A very quick and fun read. ( )
  wweisser | Jul 6, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 34 (next | show all)
Romantic chemistry sounds like a contradiction in terms, but the two words pair naturally in this book.
added by Katya0133 | editEconomist
When Mr. Sacks departs from the narrative of his childhood to serve up lengthy digressions on the finer points of rare earth metals or electromagnetic reactions, his writing can lapse into textbook lecturing, but even these dense, scientific passages are enlivened by his boyish wonder at the amazing logic and strangeness of the world.
added by Katya0133 | editNew York Times, Michiko Kakutani
Thus this is both the story of a particular English boy's life just before, during, and after World War II and a maximally engaging, personalized overview of chemistry, from Robert Boyle to Madame Curie.
added by Katya0133 | editBooklist, Ray Olson
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Many of my childhood memories are of metals: these seemed to exert a power on me from the start.
He loved doing housecalls more than anything else, for they were social and sociable as well as medical, would allow him to enter a family and home, get to know everybody and their circumstances, see the whole complexion and context of a condition. Medicine, for him, was never just diagnosing a disease, but had to be seen and understood in the context of patients' lives, the particularities of their personalities, their feelings, their reactions.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0375704043, Paperback)

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

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:01:21 -0400)

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Long before Oliver Sacks became a distinguished neurologist and bestselling writer, he was a small English boy fascinated by metals-also by chemical reactions (the louder and smellier the better), photography, squids and cuttlefish, H.G. Wells, and the periodic table. In this endlessly charming and eloquent memoir, the author chronicles his love affair with science and the magnificently odd and sometimes harrowing childhood in which that love affair unfolded. In Uncle Tungsten we meet Sacks' extraordinary family, from his surgeon mother, who introduces the fourteen-year-old Oliver to the art of human dissection, and his father, a family doctor who imbues in his son an early enthusiasm for housecalls, to his "Uncle Tungsten," whose factory produces tungsten-filament light bulbs. We follow the young Oliver as he is exiled at the age of six to a grim, sadistic boarding school to escape the London Blitz, and later watch as he sets about passionately reliving the exploits of his chemical heroes, in his own home laboratory. Uncle Tungsten is a crystalline view of a brilliant young mind springing to life, a story of growing up which is by turns elegiac, comic, and wistful, full of the electrifying joy of discovery.… (more)

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