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Were Some of our Greatest Scientists Autistic?

Author Michael Fitzgerald says that Socrates, Charles Darwin, Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein may have had a form of autism called Asperger's syndrome. Artists and writers such as Andy Warhol, Lewis Carroll and the poet W.B. Yeats may have had it as well.

Fitzgerald says, "Asperger's syndrome provides a plus?it makes people more creative. People with it are generally hyper-focused, very persistent workaholics who tend to see things from detail to global rather than looking at the bigger picture first and then working backwards, as most people do. Yeats for example, had problems with reading and writing and did very poorly at school. He failed to get into Trinity College and was described by his teachers as 'pedestrian and demoralized.' His parents were told he would never amount to anything. This is typical of people with the condition. They don't fit in, are odd and eccentric and relate poorly with others. Most are bullied at school, as Yeats was?It proves that we should accept eccentrics and be tolerant of them. The nation is pushed forward by engineers, mathematicians and scientists."

Autism could resemble genetic conditions where having only one gene for a disease is helpful. For instance, having a single gene for Sickle Cell Anemia doesn't produce the disease, but does make a person resistant to malaria. Asperger's, a less severe form of autism, may allow for extreme creativity, while sacrificing social skills.

Fitzgerald is the author of "In Autism and Creativity: Is There a Link Between Autism in Men and Exceptional Ability?"

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