World Autism Awareness Day on 2nd April: The famous faces of ASD

World Autism Awareness Day on 2nd April: The famous faces of ASD
One of the common characteristic traits that geniuses and autistic people share is the capacity to filter out distractions and confine the focus to one specific field. © Shutterstock

What does Michelanglo and Tim Burton have in common except for the fact that they are geniuses in their respective fields? Both have Asperger's Syndrome, a condition included in the spectrum of autism disorders. Here are more famous names who lived and thrived with this condition.

Written by Editorial Team |Published : March 31, 2019 11:38 AM IST

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is an umbrella term for a host of neurodevelopmental disorders that affect a person's cognitive and communication skills, behaviour and overall functionality. Though autism can be detected at any age, the symptoms start manifesting within the first two years of life.

Characteristic features of autism spectrum disorder include lack of social skills, behavioural issues and strong visual skills among others. Strangely, these attributes are common in geniuses as well. Any prodigious achievement requires the capacity to filter out distractions (social or practical) and confining the focus to one specific field. Probably, that is the reason behind geniuses and autistic people sharing some common characteristic traits. With World Autism Awareness Day around the corner, we share a list of the most famous faces of ASD, the geniuses who thrived with this condition.

Michelangelo di Ludovico Buonarroti (1475-1564)

Known for his timeless works, Michelangelo was a painter and sculptor with unmatchable skills. He is part of the list of famous people who were autistic. His lack of social and communication skills (the marked traits of ASD), made him a loner, points out a study by authors Arshad M and Fitzgerald M. According to them, Michelangelo showed signs of Asperger's Syndrome, a condition included in the spectrum of autism disorders. They also mentioned that this versatile genius was obsessed with his own masterpieces.

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Isaac Newton (1643-1727)

According to Simon Baron-Cohen, the director of Autism Research Centre at the Cambridge University, Isaac Newton was also autistic. He suggested that Newton showed many visible signs of autism. He used to be very quiet, was unable to face criticism and envious of others. This famous scientist hardle made a close friend ever. All these hint at the claim that Baron-Cohen makes.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)

Like many other renowned personalities who were autistic, the third president of the United States, Thomas Jefferson is also speculated to be suffering from Asperger s Syndrome. This famous leader was described as autistic in the review of the book The ADHD-Autism Connection: A Step Toward More Accurate Diagnosis and Effective Treatments authored by Diane M. Kennedy. Another writer and journalist, Norm Ledgin clearly hinted at this speculation in his book, Diagnosing Jefferson: Evidence of a Condition That Guided His Beliefs, Behavior, and Personal Associations. In Ledgin's portrayal, Jefferson was a loner with an impaired speech. He was also sensitive to loud noise.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)

A prolific composer, Mozart is as one of the greatest musicians in of all times. This genius, who developed his interest for music from the age of 5, has been reported to have show signs of neurological disorders including Asperger's Syndrome. His obsession with thoughts and static objects, frequent bouts of mood swings, repetitive movements and other strange behaviours point towards autism.

Charles Darwin (1809-1882)

Known for his evolutionary theory, Survival of the fittest , Charles Darwin was autistic. However, Darwin wasn't aware of his condition. It was Prof Michael Fitzgerald who brought it to the limelight through his research. He presented various proofs in his study: Intriguing behaviour, self-love, exceptional thinking and observation skill and shy nature. All these indicate that Darwin was suffering from autism.

Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)

This American poet was an impeccable wordsmith with a spark in her imagination. Dickinson also falls in the group of famous people who had Asperger s Syndrome. This prolific poet, whose works centred a lot around death and immortality, was socially awkward and quite reserved. Probably, that s what kept her focussed in her work and habit of extensive reading. Julie Brown, a professor and writer who believe that Emily Dickinson was autistic, mentioned this poet of the finest order in her book named Writers on the Spectrum: How Autism and Asperger s Syndrome have Influenced Literary Writing. She mentioned that Dickinson used to love being alone and enjoy the company of kids only. However, Lyndall Gordon, Dickinson s biographer, believed that autism was not the reason behind her reclusive nature, but her condition of epilepsy is should be blamed.

Lewis Carroll (1832-1898)

Famous for his animated fiction, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, author Charles Lutwidge Dodgson was better known in his pen name Lewis Carroll. Though his mastery over words and imaginative capacity made him what he is, Carroll has also been in the limelight for the wrong reasons: His love for the company of young girls. Though he was rumoured to be paedophile for this trait, some think that he was comfortable in communicating with kids because his interactive skills were poor. This is one of the major features of autism. Later, he came out as an accomplished mathematician and a minor inventor. These qualities are often linked to people with autism.

Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

According to some studies conducted at the Cambridge University, one of the famous scientists of all times, Albert Einstein, known for his theory of relativity, could have suffered from Asperger s syndrome. In his paper named Singular Scientist, British mathematician Ioan James also mentioned that Einstein showed various signs of autism. The article was published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. Ioan describes Einstein as a reclusive child who was full of dreams. He was also socially inactive and was not able to get along well with people. Moreover, this scientist is also known to be full of obsessions during his childhood.

Dan Aykroyd (1952)

Dan Aykroyd is an Oscar-nominated Canadian-American actor. He is also a writer and comedian. Born with webbed toes, he was driven away from school twice. At the age of 12, little Aykroyd was diagnosed with Tourette syndrome , a neurological disorder, and much later in the 80s, doctors found out that he had mild symptoms of Asperger's Syndrome as well, a condition included in ASD. Aykroyd in fact mentioned in one of his interviews that the idea of his famous film Ghostbuster originated from his ghost obsession. It was one of his autism manifestations.

Tim Burton (1958)

Do you know that the famous American filmmaker, Timothy Walter Burton had Asperger s syndrome? However, his exceptional work in cinema might not make you believe so. Known for his dark, and eccentric horror films, Burton wasn t diagnosed during his childhood. It was after marriage that his wife, Helena Bonham Carter spotted some abnormality in his behaviour and expressed that Burton may be suffering from Asperger s syndrome. After this, Burton watched a documentary about autism and felt that it was quite relatable to his behaviour during his childhood days and spoke openly spoke about his introvert nature. He also shared the activities he used to enjoy doing in his solitary time as a kid: Painting, drawing, and watching films. This might have led to his passion for movies.