Famous People with Aspergers Syndrome

When you consider all the famous people with Aspergers Syndrome, then there's no reason to be devastated by your child's diagnosis, right? Your child can be successful--successful because of Aspergers, not in spite of it.

Autism: Would you recognize it if you saw it? Mark Twain, Thomas Jefferson, Beethoven, Thomas Edison, Mozart, George Bernard Shaw, Richard Strauss, Vangogh, Emily Dickinson, Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Henry Ford

I wore my t-shirt with this image on Autism Awareness Day, and two women stopped to tell me that they liked it. I thanked them and told them it was Autism Awareness Day.

What a great opportunity to bring awareness! I also quietly pointed out that two of the boys in my company that day have Aspergers. That was the best part--showing them that Autism can be hard to recognize.

Successful because of Aspergers

Why do you think that someone could be successful because of Aspergers?

Look again at the second half of the Autism/Aspergers definition in both the DSM 4 and 5, that is, the Autism behaviors described as, "restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities."

Find the DSM 5 criterion: "Highly restricted, fixated interests that are abnormal in intensity or focus (such as strong attachment to or preoccupation with unusual objects, excessively circumscribed or perseverative interests)."

Although I had a general idea that this means that my son will talk to me about his favorite topic ad nauseam (that is, until I'm nauseous), I thought I'd look up the big, psychiatric words "circumscribed" and "perseverative" anyway.

circumscribed: narrow or restricted or limited; so a "circumscribed interest" would be a narrow interest (Why couldn't they just say "narrow interest"?)

perseverative: an adjective form of "persevere" or of "the act of persevering"; to persevere is to pursue an interest steadfastly despite distraction or difficulty

Boys with Autism often love trains. Girls with Autism often love animals.

Now, if the circumscribed interest were the drawer slides on my dresser (part of an object, perhaps, as is described in a separate criterion in the DSM 4), then maybe my Trio Man would one day invent a better drawer slide. (I do remember Trio Man playing with and seeminglyanalyzing drawer slides before age 2, but he's no longer interested in them.)

If the circumscribed interest were bugs, perhaps a girl Aspie may persevere to become a successful entomologist. (Girl Aspies are more likely to fixate on animals. Boy Aspies are more likely to fixate on trains.)

If the circumscribed interest were plumbing, perhaps an Aspie would persevere to help a third-world community bring clean water to its community.

Imagine the possibilities. Perhaps someday  your child or mine will be one of the famous people with Aspergers!

Diagnosing Historically Famous People with Aspergers

Aspergers Syndrome is a relatively new diagnosis. Hans Asperger (1906-1980) described what we now call Aspergers in 1944. The World Health Organization first published Aspergers in its diagnostic manual, the ICD 10, in 1991. The American Psychiatric Association first published Aspergers in its diagnostic manual, the DSM 4, in 1994.

So, the first time doctors diagnosed Aspergers was in 1944, but it wasn't "endorsed" by a professional organization until 1991. As more doctors and educators are learning about Aspergers, they are diagnosing more children. We have many more diagnosed Aspies now than we did in 1944.

But doesn't it stand to reason that Aspies have always existed? Just because we now have a name for this "syndrome" does not mean that it hasn't always been there.

So, what have famous people with Aspergers accomplished? Let's take a look.

Norm Ledgin's Books Diagnosing Jefferson and Asperger's and Self-Esteem

Norm Ledgin's son was diagnosed with Aspergers at about the same time that Ledgin was reading about Thomas Jefferson and noticing similarities between Jefferson and his son. His first book was all about Thomas Jefferson and his Aspergers characteristics. It's titled Diagnosing Jefferson (2000).

Ledgin decided to consider other historical figures and later published Asperger's and Self-Esteem: Insight and Hope through Famous Role Models (2002), describing all the following famous people who may have had Aspergers:

  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791), classical composer

  • Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), 3rd US President, author of the Declaration of Independence, author of the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom, founder of the University of Virginia

  • Charles Darwin (1809-1882), scientist who published the theory of evolution

  • Gregor Mendel (1822-1884), the father of genetics

  • Marie Curie (1867-1934), first woman to receive two Nobel prizes, the only woman to receive more than one Nobel prize, chemist and physicist who pioneered research of radioactivity

  • Albert Einstein (1879-1955), scientist who wrote the theory of relativity

  • Bela Bartock (1881-1945), composer and pianist who studied folk music, considered one of the founders of ethnomusicology

  • Paul Robeson (1898-1976), African American singer and actor with a strong sense of social justice

  • Oscar Levant (1906-1972), pianist who "out-Gershwined Gershwin," a composer, comedian, and actor

  • Orson Welles (1915-1985), actor/director known for War of the Worlds and Citizen Kane

  • Glenn Gould (1932-1982), classical pianist most known for playing Bach's keyboard music

  • Carl Sagan (1934-1996), an astronomer who popularized astronomy, wrote the novel Contact, which later became a movie

  • John Hartford (1937-2001), fiddle and banjo player, composer

Ioan James' Book Asperger's Syndrome and High Achievement

Ioan James describes the following famous people with Aspergers in his book Asperger's Syndrome and High Achievement: Some Very Remarkable People (2005).

  • Michelangelo (1475-1564)
  • Philip of Spain (1527-1598)
  • Isaac Newton (1642-1727)
  • Jonathan Swift (1667-1745)
  • John Howard (1726-1790)
  • Henry Cavendish (1731-1810)
  • Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)
  • Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890)
  • Eric Satie (1866-1925)
  • Bertrand Russell (1872-1970)
  • Albert Einstein (1879-1955)
  • Bela Bartok (1881-1945)
  • Ramanujan (1887-1920)
  • Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951)
  • Alfred Kinsey (1894-1956)
  • Simone Weil (1909-1943)
  • Alan Turing (1912-1954)
  • Patricia Highsmith (1921-1995)
  • Andy Warhol (1928-1987)
  • Glenn Gould (1932-1982)

Michael Fitzgerald and Brendan O'Brien's Book Genius Genes

Michael Fitzgerald and Brendan O'Brien list all of the following famous people with Aspergers in their book Genius Genes: How Asperger Talents Changed the World (2007).

  • Archimedes
  • Isaac Newton
  • Henry Cavendish
  • Thomas Jefferson
  • Charles Babbage
  • Charles Darwin
  • Gregor Johann Mendel
  • Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson
  • Gerard Manley Hopkins
  • Nikola Tesla
  • David Hilbert
  • H. G. Wells
  • John Broadus Watson
  • Albert Einstein
  • Bernard Law Montgomery
  • Charles de Gauelle
  • Alfred C. Kinsey
  • Norbert Wiener
  • Charles A. Lindbergh
  • Kurt Godel
  • Paul Erdos

Contemporaries with Aspergers or High-Functioning Autism

You'll also find these famous people with Aspergers or high-functioning Autism alive today:

  • Dr. Temple Grandin (b. 1947) is an animal behavior specialist, a designer of cattle-handling facilities, and a professor at Colorado State University. Dr. Grandin not only is successful in her career, but she is also an advocate for Autism and Aspergers. She has written several books about her experiences with Autism, including a book about how she sees things in pictures. I highly recommend the HBO movie Temple Grandin about her life growing up with High-Functioning Autism. You can read more on the Aspergers on TV and in Movies page.

  • John Elder Robison (b. 1957) wrote a memoir titled, Look Me In the Eye (2007), which I thoroughly enjoyed reading. If the rock band KISS is at all familiar to you, then I highly recommend this book. It was really fun to learn how Robison's Aspie-ness led to all the special effects that KISS had on stage. His most recent book is Raising Cubby. Cubby is his son, who also has Aspergers. Robison has gone beyond author to advocate who speaks at conferences about Autism and Aspergers.

  • Clay Marzo (b. 1989) is a professional surfer and athlete Clay's creativity is described in a book titled, Imagine: How Creativity Works by Jonah Lehrer, 2012.

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I am not a doctor, of course. I am just a mom who is sharing what has worked in her home. Please know that any information found on AspergersSyndromeParent.com is for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose any disorder. Young Living's products are designed to improve nutrition; they are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease or any disorder. However, scientific research has established a connection between nutrition and many disease conditions and disorders, including Aspergers, Autism, and ADHD. I share information with you so that you can consider whether it may work for your family. It is your responsibility to educate yourself and to address any health or medical needs that you may have with your healthcare provider. Please seek professional help when needed! And, yes, I may earn a commission on a link that you follow--not all links on the site but many of them. #MOMpreneur

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