Hans Christian Andersen
The experts go back and forth over whether the beloved writer of such fairy tales as The Little Mermaid and The Ugly Duckling, was autistic or not. Most of those who insist that he appeared somewhere on the spectrum are those who are autistic themselves, and therefore can relate to Andersen on a personal level. For example, Andersen’s diary describes in great length his many bouts of unrequited love for those who were, quite frankly, unattainable. This is a common personal experience for those on the spectrum who can relate, and they also cite the recurring theme of outcast characters in his stories as being a feeling they are familiar with. Most never achieve their sought-after happy endings.
Is Hollywood director Tim Burton autistic? His long-time partner, Helena Bonham-Carter, seems to think so. At least, she once speculated that he was “possibly autistic” during an interview. While researching an autistic character for a film, Carter claims, she had an “a-ha! moment” and realised that much of her research applied to Burton. Said Carter, “Autistic people have application and dedication. You can say something to Tim when he’s working and he doesn’t hear you. But that quality also makes him a fantastic father; he has an amazing sense of humour and imagination. He sees things other people won’t see.”
There are few historical figures as controversial as the author of the children’s classic Alice in Wonderland. While some of his behaviour, such as continuously seeking out the company of young girls, has made some wonder if the university professor was a paedophile, others use the same information to insist that Carroll was actually autistic. After all, Carroll lived in a different time and place, with far different social customs than those we are used to today. He was also known to be a poor communicator, which was exacerbated by a severe stammer, and it is therefore likely that he found interacting with children much easier. Carroll showed great mathematical ability and even considered himself to be a minor inventor; both common characteristics of those on the spectrum.
Trinity College professor Michael Fitzgerald, a leading psychiatrist, researched and published a paper concluding that Charles Darwin had Asperger’s Syndrome. There are records from Darwin’s childhood that state he was a very quiet and isolated child, who avoided interaction with others as much as he could. Like so many others with Asperger’s, he sought alternative ways of communicating, such as writing letters. He had fixations with certain topics like chemistry, but was a very visual thinker — all traits of someone on the autism spectrum.
Paul Dirac has repeatedly been referred to as one of the most significant and influential physicists of the 20th century. The Cambridge professor greatly contributed to early quantum mechanics and quantum electrodynamics, and even received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1933. That Nobel, however, was almost refused by Dirac, who was so reclusive that he didn’t want the publicity. Such shyness is one of many reasons why a large number of people think Dirac may have had some form of autism. Besides his shyness, they cite his intense focus, extreme literal-mindedness, lack of empathy, and his rigid patterns.
Perhaps the most famous scientist and mathematician in history, Albert Einstein, had a number of interesting and possibly telling characteristics. For one, he had trouble socialising, especially as an adult. As a child, he experienced severe speech delays and later had a habit of repeating sentences to himself. And of course, he was incredibly technical. Such characteristics have led many experts to conclude that he appeared somewhere on the autism spectrum.
Bobby Fischer, the chess grandmaster and World Chess Champion, is said to have had Asperger’s Syndrome in addition to paranoid schizophrenia and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Fischer was known to be extremely intense, and did not relate well to others thanks to his lack of friendships and poor social abilities. His extreme focus on chess is another sign, as his track record for not being able to cope in an unstructured environment.
Could Bill Gates, one of the richest men in the world, be autistic? Quite a few autism experts seem to think so! While nothing has ever been confirmed regarding whether or not Gates falls on the spectrum, those who seem to think he is cite things like the distinct rocking motion Gates displays when he concentrates, his shortened and monotoned speech patterns, and his habits of avoiding eye contact on the rare occasion he speaks directly with someone else. These are all common characters of those on the spectrum, and the evidence that Bill Gates may be autistic is quite persuasive.
Daryl Hannah — the beautiful star of films like Splash, Blade Runner, and Steel Magnolias — only came out about her experiences on the autism spectrum about five years ago. Since then, Hannah has been nothing but inspirational as she’s told the honest truth about her challenges with Asperger’s Syndrome. As a child, she rocked herself to self-soothe, and was so shy that once she began acting she refused to give interviews or even attend her own premieres. Though she has mostly learned to control and live with her diagnosis, Hannah has all but left the entertainment industry to focus on environmental issues and other passions.
Those who associate Steve Jobs with autism admit that it’s pure speculation, but they are also quick to point out that that speculation has grown more and more mainstream since the Apple genius’s death in 2011. Those who believe Jobs landed somewhere on the spectrum cite such behavioral quirks as his obsession with perfection, his unorthodox ways of thinking, and his general lack of empathy when dealing with others.
As a child, Satoshi Tajiri was fascinated by insects and was even nicknamed “Dr. Bug” by other children. As an adult, Tajiri turned that interest into the world-wide phenomenon that is Pokemon — which itself makes him an inspiration to millions of children (and adults!) around the world. But Tajiri is also on the high-functioning end of the autism spectrum. Though he confirmed that he does indeed have Asperger’s Syndrome, Tajiri does not talk about it in public, choosing instead to let his many accomplishments speak for themselves
If you don’t remember, in 2009 this Scottish woman auditioned for the Britain’s Got Talent, and she touched the world with her mesmerizing voice and instantly became a sensation. After which she never looked back and went onto selling 14 million records around the world.
Until recently, Boyle announced that she was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, through a Scottish specialist – which she called “a relief”
According to her “Asperger’s doesn’t define me. It’s a condition that I have to live with and work through, but I feel more relaxed about myself,” she said in the interview. Now that is what you call a never-dying spirit.
It seems strange to think that we would be talking about this renowned filmmaker having suffered from Asperger’s syndrome. Though Kubrick does not live among us anymore, his legacy continues.
Kubrick was diagnosed in retrospect by Dr. Michael Fitzgerald along with co-writer Viktoria. They based their diagnosis on the facts on Kubrick’s behavioral traits – like obsessive interests, poor sociability and lack of adaptability towards new things.
There may be no autistic person alive today more famous than Temple Grandin. The author and Colorado State University professor didn’t begin speaking until she was almost four years old, and the doctors who diagnosed her recommended she be institutionalised. Fortunately, her parents did not agree with those doctors. Grandin has gone on to become a leading force in animal sciences, has been named one of TIME’s 100 most influential people, and has produced an award-winning biopic about her life. She remains an outspoken advocate in the autism community, and has been unapologetic about her belief that the “characteristics of autism can be modified and controlled.”
Anne, 59, from Wood Green, North London, was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, which is a form of autism, in 2005 after seeing a TV programme about autism and realising she had all of the symptoms. Anne said: ‘For a long time I didn’t know what the problem was but I realised I had trouble multi-tasking.’
“Around about 2003 I happened to see a TV programme about little autistic boys and something about it just kind of clicked. I just thought “There is something about the way those boys are behaving that reminds me of me now, and of me when I was a child.”
“I started researching Asperger’s syndrome and high functioning autism,’ she added. ‘I started reading about it and I thought that’s it! That’s what it’s been ever since I was a child.”
Anne visited a doctor who specialises in people with special needs and told her she had Asperger’s