LEWIS WOLPERT (1929-2021)

professor of embryology, humanist, and science communicator lewis wolpert passed away in january 2021 having written an extremely influential and honest book on depression, malignant sadness  

reported in: The Guardian by Georgina Ferry on 29th January 2021 & The Telegraph by Telegraph Obituaries on 29th January 2021 image source

this story was in episode 3 #depression #sadness #obituary #embryology

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the Guardian & Telegraph carried the obituary of Professor Lewis Wolpert who passed away in January.

while not a brain scientist, Wolpert published an acclaimed book & communicated widely on the critically important subject of depression, doing much to remove the stigma of mental ill-health. i saw him talk about his book in london in 1999 & re-read it this week.

in what must be one of the most powerful introductions to a neuroscience book, he wrote:

"it was the worse experience of my life. more terrible even that watching my wife die of cancer. i am ashamed to admit that my depression felt worse than her death but it is true. i was in a state that bears no resemblance to anything I had experienced before. it was not just feeling very low, depressed in the commonly used sense of the word. i was seriously ill. i was totally self-involved, negative and thought about suicide most of the time. i could not think properly, let alone work, and wanted to remain curled up in bed all day. i could not ride my bicycle or go our on my own. i had panic attacks if left alone. and there were numerous physical symptoms - my whole skin would seem to be on fire and i developed uncontrollable twitches. every new physical sign caused extreme anxiety. i was terrified, for example, that i would be unable to urinate. sleep was impossible without sleeping pills: these only worked for a few hours, and when i woke up i felt worse. the future was hopeless. i was convinced that I might go mad."

that was the striking first paragraph of Malignant Sadness by Professor Lewis Wolpert


rest in peace