Famous People with Autism

October 4, 2016

While autism spectrum disorders have gained recent notoriety and been the subject of much scientific research, it is not a new disorder. Men and women from across the world and throughout history have shown evidence of having an autism spectrum disorder. Some of these people have names that are highly recognizable and have accomplished great success in their field. Some have made amazing discoveries and been political leaders while others have shifted our way of thinking about math, the universe and science. These well-known people can serve as positive role models for children with autism on their way to adulthood.


While there was no evaluation process during the era of many of these famous people, there is evidence that points toward autism or one of  the autism spectrum disorders.

  • Albert Einstein – This German-born physicists who developed the Theory of Relativity was said to have difficulty with social interactions, and had tactile sensitivity. While his intelligence was well above average, he had difficulty with communication and language. Einstein most notably had difficulties with relationship and social interactions. These difficulties did not hold him back.  In fact, his unique view of life is one of the hallmarks of who he is remembered as today.
  • Thomas Jefferson – This famous Founding Father of the United States of America, former President of the United States and principle author of the Declaration of Independence was said to have been autistic or have Asperger’s syndrome. Norm Ledgin, author of Diagnosing Jefferson, indicates that Jefferson was shy, had an inability to relate to others, had difficulties in public speaking and was sensitive to loud noises. He was said to be very eccentric and had some social interaction difficulties along with difficulties understanding interpersonal relationships.
  • Michelangelo – This Italian sculptor, painter, architect, poet, and engineer of the High Renaissance was said to have a single-minded work routine, unusual lifestyle, limited interests, poor social and communication skills. These are all hallmarks of being on the autism spectrum. Michelangelo was also obsessive and followed repetitive routines. He was an artistic genius who possibly would have been on the spectrum if he lived today.
  • Emily Dickinson – This  American poet was regarded as one of the greatest poets. Her poems were in a number of ways unconventional for their time. Dickinson is one of the writers discussed in the 2010 book Writers on the spectrum: how autism and Asperger syndrome have influenced literary writing by literary academic Julie Brown.