British author Oliver Sacks has been diagnosed with terminal cancer.

The scientist/writer, 81, whose 1973 book Awakenings inspired the Oscar-nominated movie of the same name, revealed that a cancerous tumour in his eye which was removed nine years ago has spread to his liver and cannot be cured.

In a touching article for The New York Times, Sacks writes, "I feel grateful that I have been granted nine years of good health and productivity since the original diagnosis, but now I am face to face with dying. The cancer occupies a third of my liver, and though its advance may be slowed, this particular sort of cancer cannot be halted. I cannot pretend I am without fear.

"But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved; I have been given much and I have given something in return; I have read and travelled and thought and written. I have had an intercourse with the world, the special intercourse of writers and readers. Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure."

London-born Sacks has had an array of best-selling books as well as holding various teaching posts at New York Universities.

His book Awakenings was turned into the 1990 movie starring Robin Williams and Robert De Niro.