Many people known to be diagnosed in the spectrum of autism are brilliant scientists, anthropologists, physicists, mathematicians, and economists. Albert Einstein and Newton were both considered to be “consistent” in their behavior with high-functioning autism. Nobel Laureate Vernon Smith, a famous economist, and brilliant mathematician Jerry Newport are both known to have Asperger Syndrome as are:
Dawn Prince-Hughs, Ph.D., primate anthropologist and author
Carl Soderhom, neuropsychiatric specialist
Hikari Oe, well known composer
Literally hundreds of notable minds in society are known to be, or thought to be, in the autistic spectrum, which begs the question, “Does high-functioning autism actually contribute to high-functioning brilliance?”
Historically, the answer might be yes..
Since Autism was only defined and recognized in the 1940s, there is no way to know definitively if people prior to this definition were people with high-functioning autism. However, experts believe many notable people in history were indeed in the autistic spectrum, based on reported behaviors rather than clinical observation.
Albert Einstein is the most famous assumption. Vernon Smith, himself known to have Asperger Syndrome, believes Emily Dickinson was in the autistic spectrum. Various experts place these brilliant minds in the “autistic spectrum”:
Hans Christian Anderson
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (this one is controversial, some experts disagree)
Sir Isaac Newton
Charles Darwin, naturalist who developed theory of evolution by natural selection
Lewis Carroll, logician
Henry Cavendish, 18th century scientist
Paul Dirac, mathematician and physicist, awarded 1933 Nobel Prize in Physics
Glenn Gould, Canadian musician
Thomas Jefferson, president of United States
James Joyce, author of Ulysses
Stanley Kubrick, filmmaker
Michelangelo, Italian Renaissance artist
Charles Richter, seismologist who created Richter Scale for Earthquake magnitude
Jonathon Swift, author
Nikola Telsa, electrical inventor
Andy Warhol, American artist
W.B. Yeats, poet
While it is worth noting that some experts disagree with the above list, the majority believe that most or all of this list were people with conditions from the autism spectrum.
Is high-functioning autism an advantage to “thinkers”?
Nobel Laureate Doctor Vernon Smith said that Asperger Syndrome gave him the “ability for deep concentration contributed to my ability to win the Nobel Prize.”
Some experts suggest that some forms of Autism, in some people, can lead to a degree of focus that can lead to genius-level thinking.