The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales
AuthorOliver Sacks
CountryUnited States
SubjectNeurology, psychology
GenreCase history
Publication date
Media typeprint
Pages233 (first edition)
616.8 19
LC ClassRC351 .S195 1985
Preceded byA Leg to Stand On (1984) 
Followed bySeeing Voices (1989) 

The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales is a 1985 book by neurologist Oliver Sacks describing the case histories of some of his patients. Sacks chose the title of the book from the case study of one of his patients who has visual agnosia,[1] a neurological condition that leaves him unable to recognize faces and objects. The book became the basis of an opera of the same name by Michael Nyman, which premiered in 1986.

The book comprises twenty-four essays split into four sections ("Losses", "Excesses", "Transports", and "The World of the Simple"), each dealing with a particular aspect of brain function. The first two sections discuss deficits and excesses (with particular emphasis on the right hemisphere of the brain), while the third and fourth sections describe phenomenological manifestations with reference to spontaneous reminiscences, altered perceptions, and extraordinary qualities of mind found in people with intellectual disabilities.[2]

In addition to describing the cases, Sacks comments on them, explains their pathophysiological background, discusses potential neuroscientific implications of such cases and occasionally makes reference to some psychological concepts, such as the soul, id, ego, and super-ego.


The individual essays in this book include:

In popular culture

Christopher Rawlence wrote the libretto for a chamber opera—directed by Michael Morris with music by Michael Nyman—based on the title story. The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat was first produced by the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London in 1986. A television version of the opera was subsequently broadcast in the UK.

Peter Brook adapted Sacks's book into an acclaimed theatrical production, L'Homme Qui..., which premiered at the Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord, Paris, in 1993. An Indian theatre company performed a play entitled The Blue Mug, based on the book, starring Rajat Kapoor, Konkona Sen Sharma, Ranvir Shorey, and Vinay Pathak.

The Man Who, an album by the Scottish indie pop band Travis, is named after this book.[9]

In an episode of the television show Parks and Recreation, the surprising nature of Jerry Gergich's relationship with his gorgeous wife, Gayle (Christie Brinkley), is hypothesized as an example of a case in this book.

See also



  1. ^ Sacks, Oliver. The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat. Touchstone, 1998, pp. 8–22
  2. ^ Sacks 1985, p. 163.
  3. ^ "The President's Speech". Junkfood for Thought. 1 April 2008. Retrieved 17 August 2009.
  4. ^ Yamaguchi, Makoto (2006). "Questionable Aspects of Oliver Sacks' (1985) Report" (PDF). Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. 37 (7): 1396–1396. doi:10.1007/s10803-006-0257-0. PMID 17066308.
  5. ^ Yamaguchi, Makoto (2007). "Response to Snyder's 'Comments on Priming Skills of Autistic Twins and Yamaguchi (2006) Letter to the Editor: 'Questionable Aspects of Oliver Sacks' (1985) Report'" (PDF). Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. 37 (7): 1401. doi:10.1007/s10803-007-0397-x.
  6. ^ Wilson, Peter (31 January 2009). "A savvy savant finds his voice". The Australian. Retrieved 10 November 2014.
  7. ^ Sacks 1985, p. 149.
  8. ^ Sacks 2007, p. 158.
  9. ^ "Reviews", Music, UK: BBC.