Diagnosing a Genius

According to Jurgen Neffe (Einstein, pp. 36-7), various behaviors that Einstein exhibited as a child, specifically delayed speech, fits of temper, an ability to detach and focus on an interest in a way that rendered him inaccessible to those around him, and problems with social interactions have led some to scientists to conclude that Einstein had Asperger’s syndrome.
Thomas Sowell of Stanford established a special designation for children of high intelligence who are slow to speak and withdraw from others. His name for the condition? Einstein Syndrome.

About Nancy Pinard

Professionally-speaking, Nancy Pinard is an author-educator who spends her days writing, teaching, reading, and researching for her writing and teaching. She is the author of two published novels, Shadow Dancing and Butterfly Soup, and numerous short stories. She has taught the craft of fiction writing in many venues including Sinclair Community College, University of Dayton Life-Long Learning Institute, Antioch Writers' Workshop, Mad Anthony Writers' Workshop, and Molasses Pond Writers' Workshop. Personally, her faith is what sustains, inspires, and motivates her to continue to explore meaning through literature. "You are right in demanding that an artist approach his work consciously, but you are confusing two concepts: the solution of a problem and the correct formulation of a problem. Only the second is required of the artist." — Anton Chekov to Alexei Suvorin, October 27, 1888
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3 Responses to Diagnosing a Genius

  1. I love your sensibilities about Einstein! I got lost reading and reading and reading. Lovely, and thank you!

  2. Lynne Hugo says:

    So interesting. I’m not familiar with Einstein Syndrome, but I do know that being on the autism spectrum can be perfectly consistent with genius. If you haven’t already, you might want to see the movie “Temple Grandin,” which really reveals how differently and creatively people with autism spectrum disorders–including Aspberger’s–can think. Temple is autistic, but very usefully also a Ph.D., inventor, author, etc., as I’m sure you know. The movie gives a helpful visual of how her mind works. I heard her interviewed about it on NPR.
    Has there been other critical comment about an Aspberger’s diagnosis? It could conceivably explain some of the other behaviors that you’ve discussed.

  3. Nancy says:

    Another symptom Einstein exhibited until around age 8 is echolalia–the rehearsing aloud of whatever her wanted to say before he actually pronounced it. But the actual documentation of this is difficult because the Aspberger’s Syndrome was not defined until 1944, long after Einstein’s childhood. All this is done in retrospect from documents, autobiography, and hearsay.

    Wikipedia says this: “Asperger syndrome is named after the Austrian pediatrician Hans Asperger who, in 1944, described children in his practice who lacked nonverbal communication skills, demonstrated limited empathy with their peers, and were physically clumsy.” That would fit most of what I read about Einstein as a child. He isolated himself, engaged in intense projects such as proving the Pythogorean Theorem on his own or building houses of cards fourteen stories high. He eschewed all sports and roughhousing. His first tutor called him Mr. Boring.

    He also had a violent temper and hit his little sister in the head, once with a bowling ball and the other time with a child’s hoe. He threw a chair at one tutor. She fled the premises. There is some evidence, including court documents of his divorce from Mileva, that he was physically abusive to her.

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