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Famous people with Asperger's Syndrome

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Thomas Jefferson was unable to shake hands well and highly aspergery?

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Thomas Jefferson? – President


That’s right, our third president was thought to be on the spectrum. This may be stretching it when it comes to writers, but he wrote the Declaration of Independence, so I say it’s fair game. According to word from back in the day, he was an uncomfortable public speaker, had an inability to relate to others, and a huge sensitivity to loud noises. He also had very peculiar routines, like wearing slippers to important meetings or having a mockingbird on his shoulder a lot of the time (possibly as a method of self soothing in social situations). Unfortunately, as his childhood home burned down, we have no way of telling if he showed any of the childhood symptoms.

Hans Christian Andersen? – writer


The writer of The Ugly Duckling and The Little Mermaid was said to be very gangly in his youth and prone to strange tantrums. His diary entries also show him pining after many unobtainable men and women, which I can tell you from personal experience can happen to people on the spectrum. A closer look at his stories show a trend of outcast characters who weren’t always lucky enough to get a happy ending, which indicates perhaps some self-projection into his stories.

Amadeus Mozart? – music


No doubt about it, the man was a musical maestro. But Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was also thought by scholars to be on the spectrum. Allegedly, the man had a set selection of facial expressions he cycled through, was active with a short attention span akin to ADD, and had ultrasensitive hearing that could physically make him sick when his surroundings were too loud. There was apparently one time that he got bored in a public setting, so he started meowing out loud, doing cartwheels all over the place, and vaulting and doing flips over tables. If nothing else, you now know that the world’s greatest musician was also a great acrobat. Truly, he’s a man of many talents.

Michaelangelo? – artist


We have two doctors to thank for this diagnosis, specifically Dr. Muhammad Arshad and Professor Michael Fitzgerald. They described him having very limited interests, a fiery temper, repetitive routines, and poor social and communication skills, all things associated with high-functioning autistics. All of this and more was determined through notes and accounts on paper from his friends and family, so there’s validity to the diagnosis. It’s very likely that his autism gave him the edge he needed to become one of the greatest artists the world has ever seen. Trust me, I’ve seen the Sistine Chapel in person.

Nikola Tesla? – scientist


For those who are unaware, Nikola Tesla was a brilliant scientist and a rival to Thomas Edison, who wound up stealing a lot of Tesla’s inventions and took advantage of him in other ways. He’s also what the subject of the latest car craze is named after. Records say that Tesla had an intense sensitivity to light and sound, a huge amount of phobias, tendencies to be reclusive, and an obsession with the number three (which is something I can definitely relate to). Sadly, he wasn’t recognized for his genius or struggles and died alone, penniless, and shunned by the scientific community. Now if you want a story with a happier ending…

Albert Einstein? – world renowned scientist


Now here’s a name we’re all familiar with, seeing as he revolutionized the scientific world. In addition to being a brilliant mind, there has been speculation that he was on the spectrum. He had difficulty socializing as an adult, which manifested in speech delays, he was very technical minded, and in his youth, he used to repeat his sentences to himself, a phenomenon known as echolalia. Those are all, you guessed it, signs of the spectrum. Another sign was his ability to focus his research around abstract details that only someone with Asperger’s or autism could spot.

History has been peppered with heroes on the spectrum, even if they didn’t realize it at the time. But armed with the tools and knowledge of our time, we can uncover the unsung aspies of the past and tell their whole story in the future. Tune in next time where we take a look at musicians on the spectrum and be prepared, there are a lot.



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On ‎12‎/‎26‎/‎2013 at 11:37 AM, Nesf said:

Daniel Tammet's abilities are fascinating - I think he has synesthesia too. Did he learn all those languages in a week, or just Icelandic? And I wonder how fluently he speaks them? For me fluently would be at least A level (C1). I can pick up languages very easily, too, but I definitely don't share his mathematical abilities! So far I've learnt 6 foreign languages up to at least GCSE level (B1), and four fluently. I'm now working on my 7th. But that's nothing in comparison to Daniel Tammet - I don't know if I could manage to learn a foreign language fluently in a week - up to GCSE level, maybe.

TBH Daniel's record-breaking recitation of pi is more of a memory trick (albeit impressive) than evidence of mathematical skills. His highest mathematical qualification is (or at least was at the time he broke the record) a B grade at GCSE. This is above average in the general population, but it in no way bears comparison with real mathematicians like Andrew Wiles of Fermat's Last Theorem fame. IIRC, Daniel said in Born on a Blue Day that algebra was his stumbling-block; he couldn't get his head round letters representing numerical values.

Re Icelandic - I've acquired a smattering of the language through having watched Trapped. Especially in the second series. Whereas in the first series the only words I identified were those for "darling" and "potato" (which sound like their Swedish and Danish/German counterparts respectively), in the second series I lost count of the number of words I recognised. Grammar nerds may be interested to know I even spotted a possessive form! The significance of this is that the circumstances under which I learnt Swedish were fraught to say the least so I'm amazed I remember any of it.


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