People speculated to have been autistic

People speculated to have been autistic

Famous historical people have been speculated to have been autistic by journalists, academics and autism professionals. Such speculation is controversial and little of it is undisputed. For example, several autism researchers speculate that Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart had autism and other diagnoses, while other researchers say there is not sufficient evidence to draw conclusions that he had any diagnoses.

Controversial speculation

Speculative claims that historical figues displayed behaviors associated with autism spectrum disorders include people who died before the work done by Hans Asperger and Leo Kanner in classifying autism spectrum conditions was completed. Autism has only been recognized since the 1940s, so many earlier cases may have gone undiagnosed. Speculation about their diagnoses is based on reported behaviors rather than any clinical observation of the individual. Fred Volkmar, a psychiatrist and autism expert at the Yale Child Study Center says, "There is unfortunately a sort of cottage industry of finding that everyone has Asperger's."

Historical figures


Michael Fitzgerald, of the Department of Child Psychiatry at Trinity College, Dublin, has speculated about historical figures with autism in numerous journal papers and at least three books: "The Genesis of Artistic Creativity: Asperger's Syndrome and the Arts", cite book|last=Fitzgerald |first=Michael|title=The genesis of artistic creativity: Asperger's syndrome and the arts|publisher=Jessica Kingsley Publishers|date=2005|location=London|isbn=1843103346] "Unstoppable Brilliance: Irish Geniuses and Asperger's Syndrome" cite book|last=Walker|first= Antoinette |coauthors=Michael Fitzgerald|title=Unstoppable Brilliance: Irish Geniuses and Asperger's Syndrome|publisher=Liberties Press|date=2006|isbn= 1-905483-031 ] and "Autism and Creativity, Is there a link between autism in men and exceptional ability?" cite book|last=Fitzgerald|first=Michael|title=Autism and creativity: is there a link between autism in men and exceptional ability?|location=East Sussex|publisher=Brunner-Routledge|year=2004|isbn= 1583912134 ]

Fitzgerald speculated the following were autistic in "The Genesis of Artistic Creativity":
*WritersHans Christian Andersen, Lewis Carroll, Bruce Chatwin, Arthur Conan Doyle, Herman Melville, George Orwell, Jonathan Swift and William Butler Yeats.
*PhilosophersA.J. Ayer, Baruch de Spinoza, Immanuel Kant and Simone Weil.
*MusiciansBela Bartok, Ludwig van Beethoven, Bob Dylan, Glenn Gould, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Erik Satie.
*PaintersVincent van Gogh, L.S. Lowry, Jack B. Yeats and Andy Warhol.

"Unstoppable Brilliance" discusses Daisy Bates, Samuel Beckett, Robert Boyle, Eamon de Valera, Robert Emmet, William Rowan Hamilton, James Joyce, Padraig Pearse and W.B. Yeats.

"Autism and Creativity" says the following may have been autistic: Lewis Carroll, Eamon de Valera, Sir Keith Joseph, Ramanujan, Ludwig Wittgenstein and W.B. Yeats.


Einstein and Newton

Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton may have had Asperger syndrome, but a definitive diagnosis is impossible as both scientists died before this condition came to be known. Albert Einstein's brain has been preserved. As physical features of the brain connected with autism become better known it may become possible to tell whether Einstein had those features.

Case for autism

Ioan James, and Michael Fitzgeraldcite journal |author=Fitzgerald M |title=Einstein: brain and behavior |journal=J Autism Dev Disord |volume=30 |issue=6 |pages=620–1 |year=2000 |pmid=11261475 |doi= |url= |format=PDF|accessdate=2007-11-26] believe that Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton had personalities consistent with Asperger syndrome; Tony Attwood has also named Einstein as a likely case of mild autism. Asperger's involves difficulties with social skills and preoccupation with complex subjects like music, which Einstein had. Fitzgerald says society should accept and tolerate eccentrics as they frequently have positive contributions to make.

Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton both experienced intense intellectual interests in specific limited areas. Both scientists had trouble reacting appropriately in social situations and had difficulty communicating. Both scientists sometimes became so involved with their work that they did not eat. Newton spoke little and was frequently lukewarm or bad-tempered with the few friends he had. If no one attended his lecture he still lectured to an empty room.cite web |url= |title= Einstein and Newton 'had autism' |publisher= BBC |date= 30 April 2003 |accessdate= 2007-11-07] When he was 50, Newton suffered a nervous breakdown involving depression and paranoia. After Newton's death however, his body was found to contain massive amounts of mercury, probably from his alchemical pursuits, which could have accounted for his eccentricity in later life. [ [ Newton, Isaac.] Retrieved on 2008-03-09.]

People claim that Albert Einstein was a loner as a child, was a late speaker, starting only at two to three years old, and repeated sentences obsessively up to the age of seven. As an adult his lectures were confusing. He needed his wives to act as parents when he was an adult—factors people claim make him "obviously" (or at least stereotypically) autistic. He was also the stereotypical "absent-minded professor"; he was often forgetful of everyday items, such as keys, and would focus so intently on solving physics problems that he would often become oblivious to his surroundings. In his later years, his appearance inadvertently created (or reflected) another stereotype of scientists in the process: the researcher with unruly white hair.Fact|date=November 2007

Finally, in the words of Albert Einstein: [cite web|url=|title=The world as I see it|author=Einstein, Albert|publisher=The Center for History of Physics|accessdate=2007-11-26 Originally published in "Forum and Century," vol. 84, pp. 193–194, the thirteenth in the Forum series, Living Philosophies.]

Case against autism

Oliver Sacks says that claims that Einstein or Newton had autism "seem very thin at best". Glen Elliott, a psychiatrist at the University of California at San Francisco, is unconvinced that either scientist had Asperger syndrome. "One can imagine geniuses who are socially inept and yet not remotely autistic. Impatience with the intellectual slowness of others, narcissism and passion for one's mission in life might combine to make such an individuals isolative and difficult." Elliott added that Einstein had a good sense of humor, a trait that is believed uncommon in people with severe Asperger syndrome.cite web|url=|title=Einstein and Newton showed signs of autism|date=April 30, 2003|publisher=New Scientist|author=Hazel Muir|accessdate=2007-09-09]


External links

* [ Professor Michael Fitzgerald website]

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