MODERATOR: Robert Krulwich
PARTICIPANTS: Chuck Close, Alexandra Lynch, Oliver Sacks
PROGRAM DATE: Friday, June 4, 2010

What’s it like to face a faceless world? Acclaimed neurologist Oliver Sacks once apologized for almost bumping into a large bearded man, only to realize he was speaking to a mirror. Sacks and photorealist painter Chuck Close—geniuses from opposite ends of the creative spectrum—share their experiences of living with a curious condition known as “face blindness,” or prosopagnosia.

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Robert Krulwich
Radio and Television Journalist

Robert Krulwich has been called “the most inventive network reporter in television” by TV Guide. His specialty is explaining complex subjects, science, technology, and economics, in a style that is clear, compelling, and entertaining. On television he has explored the structure of DNA using a banana; on radio he created an Italian opera, “Ratto Interesso” to explain how the Federal Reserve regulates interest rates; he has pioneered the use of new animation on ABC’s Nightline and World News Tonight. He now reports for National Public Radio. His NPR blog, “Krulwich Wonders”, features drawings, cartoons, and videos that illustrate hard-to-see concepts in science. He is also co-host of the Peabody Award-winning radio series, “Radio Lab”.

For 22 years, Krulwich was a science, economics, general assignment, and foreign correspondent at ABC and CBS News. He has won Emmy awards for a cultural history of Barbie (the world famous doll), and for a Frontline investigation of computers and privacy, a George Polk and Emmy for a look at the Savings & Loan bailout online advertising, and an Essay Prize from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.



Chuck Close is a visual artist noted for his highly inventive techniques used to paint the human face, and is best known for his large-scale, photo-based portrait paintings. He is also an accomplished printmaker and photographer whose work has been the subject of more than 200 solo exhibitions in more than 20 countries, including major retrospective exhibitions at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia in Madrid and most recently at the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia. He has also participated in nearly 800 group exhibitions.

In 1988, Close was paralyzed following a rare spinal artery collapse; he continues to paint using a brush-holding device strapped to his wrist and forearm. Among the many awards he has received is the prestigious National Medal of Arts, presented in 2000 by President Clinton.

A member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, Close has served on the board of many arts organizations and was recently appointed by President Obama to serve on The President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities.

Writer, Painter

Alexandra Lynch paints portraits and still lifes in acrylic, watercolor, and collage. She also writes a motherhood diary at and lives in Hatfield, Massachusetts.

Lynch is a former writer and editor for The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. She has been described as a “super-recognizer”—someone who has an exceptional ability to recognize even unfamiliar faces.

Neurologist, Author

Oliver Sacks, a physician and author, has been called “the poet laureate of medicine” by The New York Times. His books and essays, including The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and An Anthropologist on Mars, are used in schools and universities around the world. He is also the author of Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain, and a forthcoming book, The Mind’s Eye.

In his books, Sacks describes patients struggling to live with brain conditions ranging from Tourette’s syndrome to autism, Parkinsonism, phantom limb syndrome, schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s disease. His book Awakenings inspired a play by Harold Pinter and also the Oscar-nominated feature film with Robert De Niro and Robin Williams. His essays regularly appear in the New Yorker and the New York Review of Books, as well as various medical journals.

Sacks is professor of neurology at the NYU School of Medicine.