The rave about autism these days has raised a number of questions. Did autism just show up in our world as a result of environmental changes? Has it been around for a long time, but was only studied, defined and diagnosed in recent times? According to some historians and psychologists, autism has been around for a long time. They went on to show that there are many famous autistic people in history.
Carefully studying the ways some famous people in history behaved and wrote, it was discovered that they had one form of autism or the other. Some had Asperger Syndrome (a developmental disorder that impairs social interaction and verbal communication), while others had High-Functioning Autism (higher than normal performance IQ). Although they are the same disorder, they vary in some ways.
People with Asperger Syndrome make poor eye-to-eye contacts, have trouble decoding gestures, are unable to figure out humor and sarcasm, exhibit odd behaviors and inappropriate manners.
The ones with High-Functioning Autism are highly sensitive to emotions, fixed on a particular matter, have difficulty socializing, have difficulty understanding sensations, etc.
Any famous person in history that exhibited any or a combination of these symptoms, could be said to have been autistic.
10 Famous Autistic People in History
1. Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein is the first on our list of famous autistic people in history. He was a German theoretical physicist who lived from 14th March 1879 to 18 April 1955 (76 years). He propounded one of the two greatest theories in modern physics, the relativity theory. Another great theory he developed was quantum mechanics. He also had some influence on the philosophy of science for some of his philosophical works.
If you ever did physics, you must have come across the mass-energy relationship formula, E=mc². Einstein put that equation together and it has been tagged ‘the most famous equation in the world’. In 1921, he received the prestigious Nobel Prize in Physics, in recognition of his contributions to theoretical physics. Particularly, he got the prize for discovering the photoelectric effect law, a critical contribution to the evolution of the quantum theory.
According to researchers at Cambridge and Oxford Universities, Albert Einstein is believed to have Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of autism. Though he was very intelligent, he had language difficulty and problems with social interactions. He also found it difficult to learn at school. Making reference to Ioan James’ publication in the Royal Society of Medicine, ‘Singular Scientists’, he hinted that Einstein showed do many signs of autism. He further stated that Einstein was obsessed and always forgetful in his younger days.
2. Isaac Newton
Sir Isaac Newton also makes our list of famous historical figures with autism. He was an English scientist, philosopher, physicist and mathematician who was born in 1643 and died in 1726 (83 years). His contributions made him the most influential and revered scientist in history. He was credited for developing modern laws of gravity, mechanics, and motion. Newton charted the course for the 17th Century scientific revolution with his 1687 work, Principia Mathematica (Principles of Mathematics). He also had worked on alchemy, optics, and religion.
Some of his mathematical achievements include the binomial theorem, classified cubic plane curves, the theory of finite differences, use of fractional indices, power series reversion etc. In the field of science, he made tremendous inroads in the study of optics, improvement in the working principles of the telescope, and the famous laws of motion.
Professor Simon Baron-Cohen, of the Autism Research Centre at Cambridge University, examined the behavior of Sir Isaac Newton. He had reasons to believe that Newton displayed done symptoms of Asperger syndrome.
3. Lewis Carroll
The third on this list, his real name is Charles Lutwidge Dodgson. Lewis Carroll is his pen name. Lewis was a famous English writer that lived between 1832 and 1898 (66 years). He was renowned for writing two notable children’s fiction, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. He was also the Poet who wrote Jabberwocky and The Hunting of the Snark. Lewis also was a photographer and mathematician.
Lewis, one of our famous autistic people, had problems understanding proper manners and social conventions. He was known for rejecting invitations, only to show up unannounced at a very bad time. Those who knew him said he saw the world in peculiar perspectives and tends to get lost in his fantasy world.
Michael Fitzgerald, a professor of child and adolescent psychology at Trinity College in Dublin, and author of Autism and Creativity: Is There a Link between Autism in Men and Exceptional Ability? thinks Lewis Carroll may have had autism. He never quite made friends and was extremely shy.
4. Nikola Tesla
Nikola Tesla was a Serbian-American inventor, who lived from July 1856 to January 1943 (87 years). He was famous for his contributions to the development of AC electricity supply. He was also a mechanical engineer, electrical engineer, and futurist.
Some characters he exhibited has been analyzed to be connected to symptoms of autism. He kept a carefully regimented daily routine that saw him work from exactly 9 am to exactly 6 pm. He always had dinner at exactly 8:10 pm at the same restaurant, served by a particular waiter.
It was also said that he was always sick when he was a young man. During which, he would have visions. Though some may attribute it to the spark of genius, there are strong similarities to High-Functioning Autism.
5. Thomas Jefferson
Who would have thought a former President would be on our list of famous autistic people. Thomas Jefferson was the third President of the United States from 1801 to 1809. He was born in 1743 and died in 1826 (83 years). Prior to serving as the President, he served as the second Vice President of the United States.
Jefferson had a problem relating to people and wasn’t comfortable speaking in public. In Norm Ledgin, an author and journalist wrote a book titled Diagnosing Jefferson. In his book, he argued that without a doubt, Jefferson had Asperger Syndrome.
He said that though Jefferson kept a meticulous financial record, he still died in debt. He argues that he had evidence to prove that Jefferson was autistic in his book.
6. Charles Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin was an English biologist, geologist, and naturalist, famous for his theory of evolution. He proposed that all living thing is a descendant of a common ancestor that evolved over time. Amidst various disparaging views, his theory has been accepted and seen as a foundational concept in modern science.
According to Michael Fitzgerald, a professor of Psychology, Charles Darwin had Asperger Syndrome. He believed it was a contributing factor in the scientific breakthroughs made by Darwin.
He said that Darwin never had a social life. Rather, he would walk the same route for a long time. He took special notice of mundane things and even picked up shells and insects as a kid.
7. Andy Warhol
Andy Warhol was an American artist that lived from August 6, 1928, to February 22, 1987 (59 years). He was instrumental in pioneering pop art, a visual art movement. His works were on high demand in the 60s’, as he explored the connection between artistic expressions and advertising. He is multifaceted and his span is a variety of media – film, painting, photography, sculpture and silkscreening.
He has been found to be repetitive in his artwork. According to Judith Gould, director of Britain’s top center for autism diagnosis confirmed that to be a symptom of autism. In fact, Warhol used to wear a particular kind of green cotton underwear. This is common with autistic people and puts him firmly in our famous autistic people’s list.
Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni, popularly known by his first name was an Italian architect, sculptor, painter, and High Renaissance Poet. He was born on 6th March 1475 and died on 18 February 1564 (89 years). For some, he is the greatest artist of his lifetime. For others, he is all-time greatest. Due to the versatility of his works, he is placed side by side with Leonardo da Vinci, as the archetypal Renaissance man.
Dr. Muhammad Arshad believes that Michelangelo had Asperger syndrome, one of the types of autism. This he said because he could not converse properly. He was, by all means, strange and isolated. He did attend his own brother’s funeral. This suggests that he may have found it difficult to show emotions. According to Arshad, his retentive memory allowed him to create hundreds of sketches used in the Sistine Chapel in a short time.
9. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Mozart was a very influential classical music composer born on 27th of January, 1756 and died on 5 December, 1791 (35 years). There’s been a lot of myth surrounding his early death, however, that’s all there has been to it. He made over 600 musical compositions in his short existence, with his first piece written when he was eight.
Mozart repeatedly made facial expressions, moved his hands and feet perpetually, had some crazy mood swings and he was highly sensitive to noise. These symptoms are consistent with that of an autistic person. So on this premise, it can be said that Mozart is definitely one of the famous autistic people in history.
10. William Butler Yeats
Yeats rounds up our list of 10 famous autistic people in history. He was an Irish Poet, who lived from 1865 to 1939 (74 years). He was a notable personality in literature in the 20th century. Apart from being a poet, he was also a politician. He served a two-term tenure as the Senator of the Irish Free State.
For a greater part of Williams’s life, he was socially disconnected. This was confirmed in the works of Professor Michael Fitzgerald. He went on to say that he had difficulty reading and writing, which contributed to his poor performance in school. However, his autistic state was seen as mild.