31 July 2007

Was Einstein autistic? Does it matter?

When I started reading Walter Isaacson's new biography of Albert Einstein, one of the first things I did was look in the index to see if autism or Asperger's was listed. No on both counts.

As I've read the book, I've found myself unconsciously evaluating the information presented through a diagnostic lens, trying to decide if he was indeed autistic. (See this Google search for a lot of discussion about the topic.)

I'll post my thoughts on the matter after I've finished the book and had the chance to digest it all, but in the meantime the following question came to mind:

Does it really matter if Einstein were autistic or not?
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6 comments:

mcewen said...

Isn't it strange how difficult it is not to read everything through a diagnostic lense. [and the radio and telly come to think of it!]
Cheers

Suzanne said...

Does it matter? After reading Don Brown's Odd Boy Out (which presents the future Nobel Prize winner as a sallow, sunken-eyed little boy who lingers on the sidelines as other boys roughhouse, spends hours building a house of cards "fourteen stories high," and vexes his teachers (one tells him that "he would never get anywhere in life") ), I was convinced that my son is much like young Albert. Does it matter if Einstein was Autistic? It does to me, because it would prove Autism existed before it was named (much less before thimerosal), and that autistic people can be quite successful, even without ABA or DAN protocol and whatever other nonsense propaganda shoves at parents.

Joseph said...

It's an interesting tidbit, but it probably matters most to his family. It would've mattered a lot more if it were possible to have known about it when Einstein was relatively young. One of his sons (Eduard Einstein) was diagnosed with Schizophrenia. He was intitutionalized and I understand his dad didn't want to have anything to do with him afterwards.

Eduard Einstein was a bright kid by all accounts. Who knows if today he'd have an Asperger's label instead, and who knows if things would've turned out differently? If Einstein knew he was autistic as well, would he have seen his son in a different light?

laurentius rex said...

It does matter in the sense that we know that we cannot know because he lived in a different time and world to the current one which is viewed through a medical lense.

It annoys me when people claim he was dyslexic, and when people claim he was schizophrenic, just because they want to put him on a pedestal and claim that inspite of whichever stigmatisation they have been culturally loaded with, it's ok cos they are really as clever as Einstein.

Well if I had got there first, would Einstein want to be like me, would he put my poster on his wall, next to Jimi Hendrix?

I doubt it. To me the ones who matter are those celebrities who do have the diagnosis and can do something positive with it to dispel the mythology, and Einstein is a part of that dark age mythology himself and when speculation becomes more than a parlour game it gets in the way of the objective because the image we have of Einstein the autistic is no more real than that of the Rainman.

Anyway did Einstein paint the Sistine Chapel? no, he did not even paint my bathroom?

Anonymous said...

Einstean could not possibly have been autistic. He was much too intelligent. No autistic person could have that kind of intelligence since the mercury kills too many brain cells and lowers IQ's.

Queen of Shake Shake said...

No it doesn't matter because he wasn't autistic.

Too many people confuse the behaviors of highly gifted minds with autism. They are not the same.

People mistakenly expect exceptionally brilliant people to act just like everyone else, only they are smarter. When they don't act like everyone else, well, there must be something pathologically wrong with them.

No Einstein was simply a brilliant mind and exhibited the common characteristics of brilliant people.