Thomas Jefferson enjoyed high classical musical fair, which included Haydn, Bach, and Mozart.  Based on historical facts regarding his interests and beliefs, he would have certainly been fascinated by Thomas Bethune:

c.1781. (Notes on the State of Virginia) “In music they [blacks] are more generally gifted than the whites with accurate ears for tune and time, and they have been found capable of imagining a small catch. Whether they will be equal to the composition of a more extensive run of melody, or of complicated harmony, is yet to be proved.”[7]

According to historians, Thomas Jefferson had a passion for the arts, architecture and music in particular.  However, according to his granddaughter, his own musical abilities were modest.  (From “Mr. Jefferson played I believe very well indeed, but not so well as to stand comparison with many other persons . . . No amateur violinist could hope to equal a professor.” Thus Ellen Randolph Coolidge described the technical skill of “dear Grandpapa,” whom she adored.

But, was Thomas Jefferson – the President of the United

States, moneyed, a man of intellect, a perfectionist,

author of the Declaration of Independence, polished

pianist – also autistic? Other historical figures

sometimes considered autistic.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Famous historical people have been speculated to have had autism or other autism spectrum disorders such as Asperger syndrome by journalists, academics and autism professionals. Such speculation is controversial and little of it is undisputed. For example, several autism researchers speculate that Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart had autism and other conditions, while other researchers say there is not sufficient evidence to draw conclusions that he had any such conditions.[1]


Controversial speculation

Speculative claims that historical figures displayed behaviors associated with autism spectrum disorders include people who died before the work done by Hans Asperger and Leo Kanner in classifying autism spectrum conditions was completed. Autism has only been recognized since the 1940s, so many earlier cases may have gone undiagnosed.[2] Speculation about their diagnoses is based on reported behaviors rather than any clinical observation of the individual. Fred Volkmar, a psychiatrist and autism expert and director of the Yale Child Study Center says, “There is unfortunately a sort of cottage industry of finding that everyone has Asperger’s.”[3]

Michael Fitzgerald, of the Department of Child Psychiatry at Trinity College, Dublin, has speculated about historical figures with autism in numerous journal papers and at least three books: The Genesis of Artistic Creativity: Asperger’s Syndrome and the Arts,[4] Unstoppable Brilliance: Irish Geniuses and Asperger’s Syndrome[5] and Autism and Creativity, Is there a link between autism in men and exceptional ability?[6]


Person Speculator
Hans Christian Andersen – author Michael Fitzgerald[4]
Béla Bartók – 20th century Hungarian composer Ioan James;[7] Oliver Sacks says the evidence seems “very thin at best”.[8]
Hugh Blair of Borgue – 18th century Scottish landowner thought mentally incompetent, now studied as case history of autism. Rab Houston and Uta Frith[9] Wolff calls the evidence “convincing”.[10]
Lewis Carroll – writer, logician Michael Fitzgerald[4][6][11]
Henry Cavendish – 18th century British scientist. He was unusually reclusive, literal minded, had trouble relating to people, had trouble adapting to people, difficulties looking straight at people, drawn to patterns, etc. Oliver Sacks,[3][8] and Ioan James;[2][7] Fred Volkmar of Yale Study Child Center is skeptical.[3]
Charles XII of Sweden – speculated to have had Asperger syndrome Swedish researchers, Gillberg[12] and Lagerkvist[13]
Jeffrey Dahmerserial killer Silva, et al.[14][15]
Anne Claudine d’Arpajon, comtesse de Noailles – French governess, lady of honor, tutor Society for French Historical Studies, New York Times[6]
Charles Darwin – naturalist, associated with the theory of evolution by natural selection Michael Fitzgerald[11]
Emily Dickinson – poet Vernon Smith[6]
Éamon de Valera – Irish revolutionary and politician Michael Fitzgerald[4][16]
Paul Dirac – British mathematician and physicist. He was Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge University, 1933–1963 and a Fellow of St John’s College. Awarded the 1933 Nobel Prize in Physics for his work on the mathematical foundations of Quantum Mechanics. Ioan James[2] and Graham Farmelo[17]
Albert Einstein – physicist See analysis below
Janet Frame – New Zealand author Sarah Abrahamson;[18] this suggestion has been the subject of some controversy.[19][not in citation given][20]
Glenn Gould – Canadian pianist and noted Bach interpreter. He liked routine to the point he used the same seat until it was worn through. He also disliked social functions to the point that in later life he relied on the telephone or letters for virtually all communication. He had an aversion to being touched, had a different sense of hot or cold than most, and would rock back and forth while playing music. He is speculated to have had Asperger syndrome. Michael Fitzgerald,[4] Ioan James,[7] Tony Attwood,[21] and NPR[22]
Adolf Hitler – Austrian born, Nazi German politician, chancellor and dictator Michael Fitzgerald[6] and Andreas Fries;[23] although others disagree and say that there is not sufficient evidence to indicate any diagnoses for Hitler.[24]
Thomas Jefferson – US President Norm Ledgin[25] Tony Attwood,[21] and Ioan James[7]
Keith Joseph – father of Thatcherism Michael Fitzgerald[4][16]
James Joyce – author of Ulysses Michael Fitzgerald and Antionette Walker;[5] this theory has been called “a somewhat odd hypothesis”.[26]
Stanley Kubrick – filmmaker Michael Fitzgerald[27]
William McGonagall – poet, notoriously bad yet he never understood that others mocked him Norman Watson[28]
MichelangeloItalian Renaissance artist, based on his inability to form long-term attachments and certain other characteristics Arshad and Fitzgerald;[4][29][30] Ioan James also discussed Michelangelo’s autistic traits.[7]
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – composer Tony Attwood[21] and Michael Fitzgerald;[4] others disagree that there is sufficient evidence to indicate any diagnoses for Mozart.[1]
Isaac Newton See analysis below
Moe Norman – Canadian golfer USA Today[31]
George Orwell – writer speculated to have had Asperger Syndrome. His troubled life went along with social interaction problems. Towards the end of his life he wrote a bitter polemic on his preparatory boarding school “Such, Such Were the Joys” which displays many of the characteristics of Asperger’s and interpersonal relationships. Orwell knew this intensely personal account was libellous and biographers have found it a challenge to explain its conflict with the truth, but Orwell still felt it important to publish this account eventually. Michael Fitzgerald[4][16]
Enoch Powell – British politician Michael Fitzgerald[4][16]
Srinivasa Ramanujan – mathematician Ioan James[7] and Michael Fitzgerald[32]
Charles Richterseismologist, creator of the eponymous scale of earthquake magnitude Susan Hough in her biography of Richter[33]
Erik Satie – composer Ioan James[7] and Michael Fitzgerald[4]
Jonathan Swift – author Ioan James[7] and Michael Fitzgerald[4]
Nikola Tesla See analysis below
Alan Turing – pioneer of computer sciences. He seemed to be a math savant and his lifestyle has many autism traits about it. Tony Attwood[21] and Ioan James[7]
Michael Ventris – English architect who deciphered Linear B Simon Baron-Cohen[34]
Andy Warhol – American artist Michael Fitzgerald[4][35] and Ioan James[7]
Blind Tom Wiggins – autistic savant Oliver Sacks[36]
Ludwig Wittgenstein – Austrian philosopher Michael Fitzgerald[37] Tony Attwood,[21] and Ioan James;[7] But Oliver Sacks seems to disagree.[8]
W. B. Yeats – poet and dramatist Michael Fitzgerald[4][16]

Einstein, Tesla and Newton

It has been speculated that Isaac Newton had what is now considered Asperger syndrome.

It has been speculated that Albert Einstein was on what is now considered the autism spectrum.

Albert Einstein (1879–1955), Nikola Tesla (1856-1943) and Isaac Newton (1643–1727) all died before Asperger syndrome became known, but Ioan James,[2] Michael Fitzgerald,[16] and Simon Baron-Cohen[38] believe their personalities are consistent with those of people with Asperger syndrome; Tony Attwood has also named Einstein as a likely case of mild autism.[21]

Newton, when he was 50, suffered a nervous breakdown involving depression and paranoia. After Newton’s death however, his body was found to contain massive amounts of mercury, probably from his alchemical pursuits, which could have accounted for his eccentricity in later life.[39]

Tesla was able to mentally picture very detailed mechanisms; spoke 8 languages; was never married; was very sensitive to touch and had an acute sense of hearing and sight; was obsessed with the number three; was disgusted by jewelery and overweight people and also had several eating compulsions [40] [41].

In her 1995 book In a World of His Own: A Storybook About Albert Einstein, author Illana Katz notes that Einstein “was a loner, solitary, suffered from major tantrums, had no friends and didn’t like being in crowds”.[42]

Arguments against

Despite having a lot of savant-like abilities, Nikola Tesla is more likely to have had some form of OCD.

The evidence that any one of them had autism “seems very thin at best”.[8] Glen Elliott, a psychiatrist at the University of California at San Francisco, is unconvinced that either of the scientists had Asperger syndrome, particularly due to the unreliability of diagnoses based on biographical information. Elliot stated that there are a variety of causes that could explain the behaviour of interest, adding that Einstein had a good sense of humour, a trait [stereotypically] uncommon among those with Asperger syndrome.[38] Tesla was more commonly assumed to have suffered from some form of OCD, which is not related to the autism spectrum disorders. There is no indication that Tesla had a late onset of speech or other disabilities during childhood.