British neurologist Oliver Sacks died at his home in Greenwich village last week, aged 82 to cancer.
The first time I came across his work, was as a teenager reading his book The Man That Mistook His Wife For A Hat. He often wrote books that were best-selling case histories about his patients disorders. The way he wrote was with enormous compassion and insight and that is how I remember him.
The other book of his that captured my fascination was one called Island of the Colorblind.
In this book he writes about his journey to a remote island that he heard was home to the largest community of colourblind people on the planet.
Pingelap is this ‘Island of the Colorblind,’ a tiny Pacific island, six degrees north of the equator and hundreds of miles from the nearest landform. The islanders there are born completely colorblind and Oliver Sacks sets up a small room in a make-shift clinic on the island where he hears the accounts of the people as they describe a world without color in rich terms of pattern and tone, luminance and shadow.
From his journey, Sacks weaves together an intriguing narrative capturing the beauty of remote island life and we take a curious step into the world of people with achromatopsia. The second part of the book he travels to Guam and Rota to investigate a puzzling neurological disease called lytico-bodig. It is suspected the source of the disease comes from eating the fruits of the cyclads that flourish on the islands.
A mini-series documentary was made with Oliver Sacks on the Island of the Colorblind and can be seen in six parts.
Part 1 of 6:
Part 2 of 6:
Part 3 of 6:
Part 4 of 6:
Part 5 of 6:
Part 6 of 6:
Photographer Hannes von der Fecht has a series of beautiful black and white photos showcasing a more recent look into the island of Pingelap, which can be found on his website.
Oliver Sacks inspired a lot of people over the years with his warmth, curiosity and insight and The Island of the Colorblind is one that is hard to forget.