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11 Historical Figures Who May Have Had Autism

Updated 13 Oct 2018 116.7k views11 items

Is autism a condition that only developed recently through some change in our environment? Or is it a condition that has been around for a long time, but scientists only began studying, defining, and diagnosing it relatively recently? Many psychologists and historians believe it’s the latter - and that there are several historical figures who might have been autistic.

In fact, close studies of the writings and behavior of several historical figures - like Albert Einstein and Thomas Jefferson - reveal that they may have had an autism spectrum disorder. Because autism is a spectrum and our understanding of it is still evolving, it's nearly impossible to pin down which type a historical figure may have had. Asperger syndrome (AS, or Asperger's) and high-functioning autism (HSA, or autism without intellectual disability) are two mild forms that share many of the same symptoms, so much so that some psychologists believe they are actually the same disorder.

The three main symptoms of Asperger syndrome are obsessive interests, struggles with social relationships, and problems communicating. Other signs of Asperger's include adherence to a rigid worldview and routine, difficulty understanding social niceties, heightened senses or sensory disorders, extreme emotional outbursts, and a tendency to retreat into one's own world. People with HFA also experience many of these same difficulties. So wherever these historical figures fall on the spectrum, they all have some autistic qualities.

Now that we know some common symptoms, let's take a look at some historical figures who may have had autism.

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