During the past ten years we’ve been hearing more about the condition of autism. Even after taking a college class focused on learning disabilities that touched on the complexity of conditions within the spectrum of autism, I’m still baffled.

For instance, Asperger’s Syndrome (AS) or Pervasive Development Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS) falls within the spectrum of autism.  PDD-NOS is diagnosed when the full set of criteria for autism or Asperger’s syndrome are not met, but the tendencies are present.

It’s not a subject one can “touch” on, so it’s easy to understand why an individual without professional or specialized knowledge would find it hard to fathom.

According to the experts, those who are high-functioning autistic or have Asperger’s syndrome are often very difficult to diagnose. Only an individual’s relatives or close friends, or doctors, are likely to be able to judge whether or not he or she could be diagnosed.

Some of the symptoms of Asperger’s listed on WebMD, so keep in mind they vary and can range from mild to severe and include:

  • Problems with social skills
  • Eccentric or repetitive behaviors
  • Unusual preoccupations or rituals
  • Communication difficulties
  • Limited range of interests
  • Coordination problems
  • Skilled or talented

Michael Fitzgerald  a famous psychiatrist from Trinity College, Dublin has claimed thatmany geniuses in the fields of science, politics and the arts have achieved success because they had Asperger’s syndrome (AS), a mild form of Autism.

It is certainly enlighening to learn of well-known historical figures who may have fallen into the spectrum of autism or Asperger’s, or who might just been seen as unusual individuals. Here’s the list:

  • Jane Austen, 1775-1817, English novelist, author of Pride and Prejudice (see above)
  • Béla Viktor János Bartók, 1881-1945, Hungarian composer
  • Ludwig van Beethoven, 1770-1827, German/Viennese composer
  • AMENDED Alexander Graham Bell, 1847-1922, Scottish/Canadian/American inventor of the telephone
  • Anton Bruckner, 1824-1896, Austrian composer
  • Henry Cavendish, 1731-1810, English/French scientist, discovered the composition of air and water
  • Emily Dickinson, 1830-1886, U.S. poet
  • Thomas Edison, 1847-1931, U.S. inventor
  • Albert Einstein, 1879-1955, German/American theoretical physicist
  • Henry Ford, 1863-1947, U.S. industrialist
  • Kaspar Hauser, c1812-1833, German foundling, portrayed in a film by Werner Herzog
  • Oliver Heaviside, 1850-1925, English physicist
  • Thomas Jefferson, 1743-1826, U.S. President
  • NEW Carl Jung, 1875-1961, Swiss psychoanalyst
  • Franz Kafka, 1883-1924, Czech writer
  • Wasily Kandinsky, 1866-1944, Russian/French painter
  • H P Lovecraft, 1890-1937, U.S. writer
  • Ludwig II, 1845-1886, King of Bavaria
  • Charles Rennie Mackintosh, 1868-1928, Scottish architect and designer
  • NEW Gustav Mahler, 1860-1911, Czech/Austrian composer
  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, 1756-1791, Austrian composer
  • Isaac Newton, 1642-1727, English mathematician and physicist
  • Friedrich Nietzsche, 1844-1900, German philosopher
  • Bertrand Russell, 1872-1970, British logician
  • George Bernard Shaw, 1856-1950, Irish playwright, writer of Pygmalion (see above), critic and Socialist
  • Richard Strauss, 1864-1949, German composer
  • Nikola Tesla, 1856-1943, Serbian/American scientist, engineer, inventor of electric motors
  • Henry Thoreau, 1817-1862, U.S. writer
  • Alan Turing, 1912-1954, English mathematician, computer scientist and cryptographer
  • Mark Twain, 1835-1910, U.S. humorist
  • Vincent Van Gogh, 1853-1890, Dutch painter
  • Ludwig Wittgenstein, 1889-1951, Viennese/English logician and philosopher

Historical people prominent in the late twentieth century (died after 1975)

  • Isaac Asimov, 1920-1992, Russian/US writer on science and of science fiction, author of Bicentennial Man
  • Hans Asperger, 1906-1980, Austrian paediatric doctor after whom Asperger’s Syndrome is named
  • John Denver, 1943-1997, U.S. musician
  • Glenn Gould, 1932-1982, Canadian pianist
  • Jim Henson, 1936-1990, creator of the Muppets, U.S. puppeteer, writer, producer, director, composer
  • Alfred Hitchcock, 1899-1980, English/American film director
  • NEARLY NEW Howard Hughes, 1905-1976, U.S. billionaire
  • Andy Kaufman, 1949-1984, US comedian, subject of the film Man on the Moon
  • L S Lowry, 1887-1976, English painter of “matchstick men”
  • Charles Schulz, 1922-2000, U.S. cartoonist and creator of Peanuts and Charlie Brown
  • Andy Warhol, 1928-1987, U.S. artist

It’s a long, long, list–If you’d like to see more names you might recognize click on Famous People With Autism Traits.

I got the idea for this simple post from James Rollins’ book “The Last Oracle” in which he quotes Dr Temple Grandin,If by some magic, autism had been eradicated from the face of the earth, then men would still be socializing in front of a wood fire at the entrance to a cave.

If you’re interested in the books click on the graphics above.

Here too is the link to WebMD.

2 Comments on Historic figures who showed autistic tendencies

  1. R. Greene says:

    Wow! I followed all the links and it really gets you thinking. I think most people have something and usually not enough to diagnose. Reminds me of a relative a terrific artistwho was labeled slightly eccentric.

  2. Tiger Lilly says:

    A very interesting article.

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