Einstein, Newton displayed autistic traits

Feb 24, 2008

Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton displayed symptoms of psychiatric disorders that may have been a key to their genius, a Dublin psychiatrist said.

Michael Fitzgerald, Professor of Psychiatry at Trinity College, Dublin, said characteristics linked to autism spectrum disorders such as Asperger's syndrome are the same as those associated with creative genius, The Daily Telegraph said.

Fitzgerald, author of the book, "Genius Genes: How Asperger Talents Changed the World," said Enoch Powell and Charles de Gaulle both appear to have had Asperger's syndrome.

Speaking at a meeting of the Royal College of Psychiatrists' Academic Psychiatry, Fitzgerald said De Gaulle's Asperger's syndrome was critical to his success. He was aloof, had a massive memory, lacked empathy with other people, and was extremely controlling and dominating.

Isaac Newton was known to work non-stop for days and Einstein worked in a patent office because he was too disruptive to get a university job, the newspaper said.

"Psychiatry tends to focus almost exclusively on the negative side of different forms of mental illness," Fitzgerald said in statement. "I want to show that psychiatric disorders can also have positive dimensions."

Copyright 2008 by United Press International

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User comments : 17

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NeilFarbstein
1 / 5 (1) Feb 24, 2008
I dont believe einstein was disruptive in any way at all. His biographers say he worked in the patent office because he was frozen out of academia by antisemitism and as a result he took a civil service job where he could gain entry.
mforbes21
not rated yet Feb 24, 2008
If the negative side of differing mental processes is a disorder, then wouldn't the positive side be a euorder?
NeilFarbstein
1 / 5 (1) Feb 24, 2008
I never knew working for days at a time was sign of autism. Who said that Newton showed autistic behavior?
Savgargin
4 / 5 (1) Feb 24, 2008
I worked on some projects days and nights, 24/7 at times, I am compassionate but lacks empathy. nah... don't think I am autistic...
superhuman
3.8 / 5 (4) Feb 24, 2008
My personal opinion is that above average inteligence comes at a cost of below average empathy and emotional development (im in that position).
My hypothesis is that autism develops when a child's brain devotes too much area to abstract thinking at the cost of emotion processing and that there is a certain basic level of emotional processing which is required to develop an emotional bond with parents and other people which is in turn required for normal human development (speech etc).
Therefore I would say that genius lies on the border of autism.
Doug_Huffman
2.3 / 5 (3) Feb 25, 2008
Autism and genius re-defined into meaninglessness - all in the name of egalitarianism. The conspiracy of ignorance masquerades as common sense.
DelphianAudi
3 / 5 (4) Feb 25, 2008
This is one of the most ridiculous claims I've ever come across.

Obviously these historical luminaries displayed some behaviors that set them apart from "normal" individuals.

Now Mr. Fitzgerald is claiming that their genius stemmed from psychiatric disorders? Utter garbage.

Ask yourself, here: cui bono?

Also I'd just like to add that seeing this sort of thing on PhysOrg is bordering on offensive. I'll retract that statement if anyone can prove to me that psychiatric disorders (either classification or diagnosis) has any foundation in science at all.

Unbelievable.
Jerbowl
4 / 5 (2) Feb 25, 2008
Yes! Obviously the only logical explanation for why some people are smarter than others are mental disorders. The next time someone outsmarts me I'll know why.
zevkirsh
1.5 / 5 (2) Feb 25, 2008
keep this garbage off physorg please. social science is already not science , but this crap is some real crap at that.
Ashibayai
not rated yet Feb 25, 2008
I think you guys are generalizing the idea of "mental disorders" too much. There is no line to define where normal mental operation ends and where abnormal operation begins, nor to define what is a disorder and what is beneficial. I think that many of the reasons people may have above normal performance is because of physiological changes that may have distinct drawbacks. It's all a matter of degree to which they display the drawbacks that leads to any sort of diagnosis.

I'm sorry if the article seems to insult your heroes, but really you have to keep an open mind about what the person may really be writing about. The whole "Famous smart people may have had mental disabilities" title is really just an eye catcher.
BigTone
25.5 / 5 (2) Feb 25, 2008
This guy must be the best psychiatrist on the planet - he can go back in time - spend numerous one on one time with these individuals then make a diagnosis... I mean come on, what a disgrace to suggest any diagnosis on historical figures - other psychiatrists should slap him
quantum_flux
3 / 5 (2) Feb 25, 2008
[[[[ Fitzgerald said in statement. "I want to show that psychiatric disorders can also have positive dimensions." ]]]]

Well, you can start by not calling them "psychiatric disorders!" Just because people have features that lie outside of the normal bell-curve of the rest of society doesn't mean they have a "disorder". The rules of society are set up to serve the purposes of the average citizen (in theory at least) and an outlier on that bell curve isn't really going to be served by the set-up that much. Regardless, some rules are always going to be broken when they stifle those outliers, and we ought not punish or kill them for their "corruption of the masses" like what happened to Socrates or Jesus. Anyhow, people are afraid of other people that don't fit into the mold and so they call them "disorderly" or "disruptive" for being a "bad example" for everybody else who does fit the mold.

Revolution is always brought about by an outlier of the mold of society whether it be in the field of philosophy or religion, math or science, or even in superstars/celebrities. Also, not all revolutions are good and not all revolutions are bad. In a different society, revolutionaries would be normal folk and normal folk would be considered revolutionaries and that is why people fear foriegners/outliers.
DelphianAudi
not rated yet Feb 25, 2008
My objections to this article have nothing to do with any opinions of the individuals named within it. They could have all been jerks, so far as I'm concerned.

The point is, if you're going to frolic about willy nilly and assign every aspect of human behavior that is outside of "normal" (whatever that is) to some psychiatric condition or another, then ultimately you have to recognize that the entire process of psychiatric classification and diagnosis are equally willy-nilly and, finally, arbitrary and valueless.

Bob was smarter than most people, and he didn't conform to the behavioral pattern that some other people thought he should. Therefore he had a psychiatric disorder. Or a psychiatric condition. Or a psychiatric surplus of...whatever. It doesn't matter what you call it. Point is, it's arbitrary. No foundation in science at all.
Oderfla
not rated yet Feb 26, 2008
I really liked this article.
Bbrhuft
5 / 5 (1) Apr 27, 2008
As a scientist who has Asperger's syndrome, I'm saddened by the ignorance displayed in some of the preceding comments. Vernon L. Smith, who won the Nobel Prize in economics in 2002, described how his Asperger's syndrome allowed him to focus intensely on problems in economics. Smith invented the field of experimental economics in order to study empathy and reciprocity co-operative bargaining.

Interestingly, John F. Nash, who had schizophrenia, admitted in a recent Adam Curtis/BBC documentary (The Trap - What Happened to our Dream of Freedom ), that his condition gravely limited appreciation of human emotions - accordingly the Nash Equilibrium maybe wrong. Allot of UK government policy is based upon Nash's work.
makotech222
not rated yet Jun 07, 2008
yeah, ya dumbasses.
go Bbrhuft!
Atomicat
5 / 5 (1) Jun 07, 2008
Good lord! Next they'll be telling me that Tesla had personality quirks. I mean, who'da thunk eh?

[ Fitzgerald said in statement. "I want to show that psychiatric disorders can also have positive dimensions." ]

Well, you can start by not calling them "psychiatric disorders!" Just because people have features that lie outside of the normal bell-curve of the rest of society doesn't mean they have a "disorder"...


What? You can't remember articles and books you read 20 years ago? Why can't you see lines of stress in that bridge over there? Oh look at that tree! The fractal dimension is so beyoooteeful! *sigh* I can't imagine living with disabilities like that. How sad.

Revolution is always brought about by an outlier of the mold of society whether it be in the field of philosophy or religion, math or science, or even in superstars/celebrities.


People who do new and extraordinary things are by definition, extraordinary. I'll celebrate the mundane when Joe-Blow solves the energy crisis he created due to his group-(non)think stupidity.