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Einstein - Autistic?

  • #1
    Closed Accounts Posts: 286 ✭✭ dr zoidberg

    Article from
    Autism covers a spectrum of disorders that leave young children with a range of mental, language, behavioural and social problems. It is reported that the condition is sharply on the increase. There have been several recent suggestions that many historical male scientific, philosophical and creative figures suffered from autism, including Socrates, Isaac Newton, Michelangelo, Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein, Andy Warhol, and on the Irish scene, WB Yeats and Eamon de Valera, writes William Reville

    Autism results from a neurological disorder affecting normal brain development in the areas of social interaction and communication skills. It knows no racial, economic or social boundaries and incidence is relatively consistent around the world. It affects four times as many boys as girls and there is no defined cause or cure.

    The symptoms of autism can present in various combinations, varying from mild to severe. The term "autism spectrum disorders" (ASD) is a broad definition of autism including pervasive development disorder, Rett's syndrome, Asperger syndrome and childhood disintegrative disorder. Common traits include resistance to change, repetitive motions, preference for being alone, aversion to cuddling, avoiding eye contact, over- or under-activity, odd attachments to objects, uneven motor skills, repeating words or monologues, showing distress for no apparent reason, unresponsiveness to verbal cues, tantrums and possibly aggressive behaviour.

    People with autism have unique autistic characteristics. Many have, or develop, the ability to make eye contact, show affection, laugh, smile and develop verbal or non-verbal language skills, but usually in different ways than the non-autistic individual. It isn't possible to "outgrow" or be "cured" of autism, but the severity of symptoms can be ameliorated and skills acquired with treatment and support.

    Asperger syndrome (AS) is a type of high functioning autism and many people with the condition have quite high IQs. Many people have been struck by the similarity between the traits and habits of some historical males of exceptional ability and the symptoms of AS. Prof Michael Fitzgerald of Trinity College Dublin's department of child and adolescent psychiatry recently published a book, Autism and Creativity: Is there a Link between Autism in Men and Exceptional Ability? (Bruner-Routledge, 2004).

    According to Prof Fitzgerald, the advantage offered by AS is its tendency towards obsession: "The adult person with AS has tremendous persistence and focus. He will stick at a problem all his life if necessary."

    Einstein was a loner as a child and obsessively repeated sentences until he was seven years old. He was socially awkward as an adult, needed daily solitude, and was incapable of forming deep emotional ties with others.
    What do you think? He certainly shows the charactersitics of autism, poor social skills but exceptional talent in one area.


  • What do you think? He certainly shows the charactersitics of autism, poor social skills but exceptional talent in one area.

    The idea of autistic people all having these mad gifts like all being incredible at maths or music is a bit of a myth. There are cases of idiot savants but these are pretty rare. Asperger's is a autism spectrum syndrome but I wouldn't really see it as real autism. It's like a cold compared to SARS.

  • I agree that the evidence for autistic people having "islands of ability" is rather thin, but it has been recognised that those with autism have a much greater drive and focus on one particular area. Individuals with autism do not necessarily have a lower than average IQ. In Einstein's case, the combination of favourable genes and upbringing along with this drive could have been major factors which led him to become the greatest thinker of the twentieth century. There have been many examples of people with autistic spectrum disorders who displayed exceptional talent. Look here for example.That's not to suggest that every autistic person has one area of brilliance, but rather that the differences between autistic people are the same as the differences between non-autistic people, and that some are inevitably going to be "gifted."

    Also, there is a lot of debate over whether Asperger's syndrome is any different from autism. According to the DSM-IV, the official diagnosis between the two is almost the exact same, with the exception that Asperger's does not involve impairment in the use of language. In Einstein's case he did not have delayed development of language, but he would have had "stereotyped and repetitive use of language or idiosyncratic language ", if as the article states, despite having adequate speech, he repeated the same sentences over and over until seven years of age. This is defined as Autism, and not Asperger's (see for yourself: Autism definition, Asperger's disorder definition)
    According to those links, Einstein would have qualified as being autistic. Perhaps it is too extreme to call him autistic, but the diagnosis guidelines are not very clear on the differences between the two. Of course, not enough information about his childhood exists for someone to conclusively prove Einstein displayed these autistic tendencies. The theory does make a fair bit of sense, though, and has been endorsed by "renowned" researcher S. Baron-Cohen.