Einstein, Newton, Mozart achieved genius through autism
Famous and brilliant individuals in the fields of science, politics and the arts, such has Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, Thomas Jefferson and Mozart, accomplished success through autism, according to a leading psychiatrist.
Speaking at a meeting of the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ Academic Psychiatry conference, Prof. Michael Fitzgerald, Professor of Psychiatry at Trinity College, Dublin, said that the relationship between creativity and psychiatric disorder is not a myth, arguing that the characteristics linked to autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) were the same as those associated with creative genius.
He argued that the link between ASD’s, creativity and genius were caused by common genetic causes.
“Psychiatric disorders can also have positive dimensions. I’m arguing the genes for autism/Asperger’s, and creativity are essentially the same. We don’t know which genes they are yet or how many there are, but we are talking about multiple genes of small effect. Every case is unique because people have varying numbers of the genes involved,” the Telegraph quoted Prof. Fitzgerald, as saying.
“These produce people who are highly focused, don’t fit into the school system, and who often have poor social relationships and eye contact. They can be quite paranoid and oppositional, and usually highly moral and ethical.
“They can persist with a topic for 20-30 years without being distracted by what other people think. And they can produce in one lifetime the work of three or four other people,” he added.
He explained that traits such as a need to be dominant and up to the mark and autistic repetitiveness were key to the success of politicians such as Charles de Gaulle, who famously said “I am France”, US president Thomas Jefferson and Enoch Powell.
Prof Fitzgerald also used case histories from biographies of Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein to show how these famous scientists displayed all the characteristics of Asperger’s syndrome.
He also illustrated the link between the musician Kurt Cobain’s childhood Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, (ADHD) and his later creativity.
Prof Fitzgerald reached his conclusion after comparing the characteristics of around 1,600 people he has diagnosed with ASDs and the known biographical details of famous people.
He said Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein demonstrated how many with Asperger’s traits could work for long periods on topics without taking note of others’ views.
Prof Fitzgerald’s book “Genius Genes: How Asperger Talents Changed the World” was published at the end of last year,
“It is important to avoid stereotypes of people with autism as geniuses or otherwise, as everyone has individual character traits, strengths and needs,” Amanda Batten, of the National Autistic Society, said.
“These might include attention to detail and the ability to pursue something for long periods of time, however apparent ability in some areas may lead people to underestimate the challenges individuals face in other parts of their lives,” she added.