About Me

My photo
Victoria, Australia
I am an author of Young Adult Fiction books. I worked as a teacher in the Pacific Islands for seven years. Whilst in the Solomon Islands I taught PSSC English before the ethnic tension in 2000 forced a change of plans. I love Pacific literature, art and music. You can find me on Facebook at Beth Montgomery Author.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Island of the Colour-blind by Oliver Sacks

The Island of the Colour-blind
 (Picador, 1996)
Oliver Sacks is a neurologist and author who writes about the most peculiar and intriguing neurological conditions. A few years ago I read the autobiographical account of his childhood, Uncle Tungsten, and was thoroughly engrossed by his insatiable curiosity and his passion for science. The Island of the Colour-blind is an account of his travels in the Federated States of Micronesia (one of my favourite places in the Pacific). The book is set out in two parts. The first deals with the issue of colour-blindness. Apparently on Pingelap, an outlying islands of Pohnpei there is an unusually high number of people who see no colour at all, a condition known as achromotopia. Sacks travelled to Pingelap with two colleagues, one of whom was achromatopic, and together they recorded the incidence of the disorder and gave out sunglasses and other visual aids. People with this condition find direct sunlight blinding. They squint and find it difficult to see small details. They have excellent night vision, however.
   The second half of this book was to do with a rare neurological disorder, called lytico-bodig, that occurs on Guam, an island which is part of the Marianas Islands. The disease causes Parkinsonism type symptoms in some families and motor neurone disease in others. No one knows the exact cause of the condition although some researchers speculate it could be to do with the islanders eating the seeds of the cycad plants which are endemic to the island. The seeds are toxic and need to be specially prepared before they are eaten. However, other researchers have disputed this hypothesis and think there may be a viral cause. Although no conclusions were reached the book examines all the theories and gives detailed accounts of the disease in many patients.
   This book is fascinating reading for science students. Sacks manages to keep the medical jargon to a minimum and there are dozens of footnotes and references to his readings in this field. This book would be ideal to include as a non-fiction title for the PSSC English curriculum.

No comments:

Post a Comment