Prior to the 20th century, psychologists and medical community had been struggling with to crack a tough issue with children . The medical community had been studying children with learning disabilities and monotonous speech to find answers to why such issues occur. But, it wasn't until the 20th century they began to understand how complicated this disorder is.
Some children had Attention Deficit Hyperactivity syndrome (ADHD) and had trouble to maintain eye contact. They were called lazy or stupid in the classrooms. Some others had behavioural disturbances, trouble with emotions and impulsive behaviour. They were marked as antisocial. A different bunch of them had anxiety, repetitive behaviour and were overly sensitive to sounds. They were mistaken as crazies.
But, what ailed them all was a developmental disorder that impairs multiple functions of the brain. The symptoms are hard to define. Not every diagnosed person will have the same symptoms. Hence the psychologists termed it as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
The medical community is still unsure about the exact cause of autism, and there is no cure for it. However, despite the abnormalities, many autistic children are exceptionally smart. If given the right care, they can reach the best of their potential.
Some say that individuals with autism aren’t abnormal. They simply perceive the world differently from how most people do. It could be true because many of the genius minds in the world are autistic. Some of them even achieved great heights even before psychologists could name the disorder. Here are 12 famous autistic people in history.
Sir Isaac Newton whose observations shaped the modern theories of mathematics and physics was supposedly autistic. The speculation was made by autism expert Simon Baron-Cohen. Considering his characteristics and cognitive abilities, he is believed to be a high functioning autistic individual. Newton is said to have possessed all hallmarks of autism including poor social skills, difficulty in communicating, and obsessive interests.
His ability to focus regardless of time and place combined with obsessive interests could have lead to the discovery of gravity. Even though, a diagnosis is impossible, the fact that he slid a needle into his eye socket to distort the shape of the lens in his own eye in order to see various patterns remains as the strongest clue.
According to Simon Baron-Cohen, while Isaac Newton seems like a classic of Asperger syndrome, Albert Einstein’s case is a speculation of the same shade of the spretrum of ASD. Asperger syndrome falls in the spectrum of autism which doesn’t include learning difficulties. Einstein showed a few classic symptoms of autism, especially in his childhood. He didn't speak until the age of three. He obsessively repeated phrases until the age of seven. He mostly kept to himself. Even though he had close friends in adulthood, he struggled to make small talk.
The author of a classic in children’s literature Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland also was supposedly autistic. He had a stammer, poor social skills and a vivid imagination. Due to his trouble to make a speech, it is said that he spent most of his time with children. Apparently, he found the company of children more comfortable than his peers.
Charles Darwin who came up with the theory of natural selection and authored 'Origin of Species' was supposedly autistic. According to Prof Michael Fitzgerald of Trinity College, Dublin, the same gene that causes Asperger's syndrome is responsible for original thinking and creativity. While he had great attention to detail, Darwin struggled with social interaction. He had many compulsive behaviours like walking on the same route alone every day and letter writing. He is described as an obsessive compulsive man. The same traits lead him to study specimens and chemistry for years.
Michelangelo is another genius mind that is speculated to be a high-functioning autistic individual. His single-minded work routine that produced great work of arts such as the ceiling of Sistine Chapel, The Last Judgement and Pieta is considered to be driven by Asperger's disorder. He also had poor communication skills and avoided social situations. His limited interests and mood disorders also indicated ASD.
Emily Dickinson is one of the greatest poets ever lived, and was a victim of social stigma while she was alive. She had epilepsy which is often associated with autism. She was frowned upon for her eccentric lifestyle and single status. Even her poems were considered unconventional during that period for the themes she chose such as death and immortality. She compulsively wore white clothes. She was considered weird by adults. But, she enjoyed the company of children.
Apple’s co-founder Steve Jobs was known for his obsessive-compulsive behaviour and perfection. He also lacked empathy in social situations. He is suspected as autistic due to his unorthodox ways of thinking. As a child, he found it difficult to hang out with his peers. His classmates took him for a loner. He found it difficult to learn in a traditional classroom. But, he was eager to hang out with mechanics of the neighbourhood and work with them.
The richest man on earth is also speculated to be an autistic individual. He exhibits a few of the classic symptoms of ASD such as rocking back and forth while he is concentrating. He is reported to be not a great social person and talks in short and monotonous patterns. He ends up avoiding eye contact while talking to people. Known for his humble and humane nature otherwise his net worth is close to 9,900 crores USD.
The greatest musician of all times Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is speculated to be in the autism spectrum. Like many others, he was a genius and had original thinking in his craft. His music is unlike any other. Scholars think that descriptions of his behaviour indicate him to be autistic. Ineeded one of the ADS individuals who found a place in history. Mozart was extremely sensitive to loud noises. His short attention span and restlessness is well-documented.
He is probably the most idolised talent in Hollywood. Every creative mind on earth looks up to him, and hopes to make artworks like his. Like many, his odd behaviour and perfectionist goals are said to be part of his autistic traits. He has publicly spoken about suffering learning disabilities in childhood. He particularly struggled with reading. He still takes twice as time than anyone else to read a script. But, that doesn’t stop him from making great movies like Jaws, E.T, Schindler's List and Saving Private Ryan.
The CEO of Game Freak Satoshi Tajiri is widely known as the creator of Nintendo's Pokémon franchise. This Japanese video game designer is diagnosed as a high-functioning autistic as per reports. In fact, it was his obsessions and fixations that lead to the creation of Pokemon. He once said that he created the games to make children happy the way he was while collecting bugs as a child.
Woody Allen is another genius mind that falls in the spectrum of autism. Unlike many people, he agrees with the suspicion of experts and says that he is odd. He went on to speak on record about his compulsions. The writer, director, actor, and musician once said that he is neurotic in a more benign way. He has been public about his odd habits like not using elevators, avoiding tunnels, and preferring to have the drain in the washroom to be in the corner, not in the middle. However, none of this has stopped him from winning Oscar thrice.