08andreb's Reviews > Uncle Tungsten: Memories of a Chemical Boyhood

Uncle Tungsten by Oliver Sacks
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Oct 18, 11

bookshelves: book-reports
Read from August 25 to October 16, 2011

A young boy plays around in his science lab with his big brothers. As the boys mix two chemicals a small explosion singes his older brother’s eye brow off and they all laugh at this small mistake. This is a short part of Uncle Tungsten, an autobiography of Dr. Oliver Sacks. Though some parts in this book are humorous, it is not the right choice for everyone. If you love science this is the book for you. But if you’re more into an action book, you would find this book dreadfully boring.
This book is about the childhood of Oliver Sacks, a well-known neurologist and best-selling writer, and how he developed his love for science. The book takes place in England in 1940’s. Dr. Sacks tells about family members like his uncle Dave who they call Uncle Tungsten. He also talks about which scientists he idolized, what schools he attended, and some funny stories about his childhood. One story I liked a lot was about when he put an octopus in a bath tub in a hotel room.
Dr. Sacks’ parents were both doctors. He went to boarding school at a young age and lived there during part of World War II. When he wasn’t at boarding school he loved to spend time with his uncle Dave who manufactured tungsten light bulbs. From this occupation he earned the nickname “Uncle Tungsten.” Oliver’s Uncle Tungsten and Uncle Abe were two of the people who played an important role in helping him learn to love science. They showed him different elements and metals and how mixing them created new things.
When he became a teenager he and a group of friends from boarding school were interested in science. He and his friends all took classes from a Professor named Sid Pask who helped them discover their love for marine biology. During this period of time Oliver and his friends conducted an experiment using cuttlefish. He made a slight mistake and the cuttlefish exploded all over his dorm room the day before the parents of one of his friends were coming to visit. The explosion left a horrible stench in the dorm. They tried opening windows to air it out but it made the entire block smell bad. When they tried to mask the smell with coconut, the two scents mixed and created an even worse smell. His friend’s parents refused to even come near the house because of the stench.
Uncle Tungsten is a very well-written book. And even though I didn’t enjoy it that much, there are definitely people out there who would like this book a lot more than I did. Anyone in love with science would not want to miss this book.
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