Saturday would have been Oliver Sacks’s 89th birthday. Oliver loved to measure his age by its equivalent element in the periodic table, and element 89 is actinium, a soft, silvery-white radioactive metal that’s currently being studied for use in cancer treatments. André-Louis Debierne, a French chemist, discovered it in 1899, after separating it from pitchblende residues left by Marie and Pierre Curie after they had extracted radium.
Even as a child Oliver had a love of the periodic table, and collected his own element samples throughout his life. He talks about this in the Ric Burns film “Oliver Sacks: His Own Life”.