Throughout history, many notable public figures, from all sectors of life, who’ve been adulated for their prodigious societal contributions, are said to have been diagnosed with a developmental disorder known as Asperger’s syndrome. By definition, this condition, categorized as a form of autism, is characterized by a pervasive impairment in social interactions and nonverbal communication.
During the 1940s, the term was established by Hans Asperger, an Austrian pediatrician, whose proficient knowledge on the subject led to an addition in the Fourth Edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV). As published by the American Psychiatric Association, the revision included it as a separate disorder from autism but classified it as a high-functioning subtype.
Today, our understanding of the condition has become compendious due to a wealth of research published internationally in academic journals.
As of 2019, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates as many as 1 in 59 children suffer from a form of autism spectrum disorder. Strikingly, among those CDC estimates, are notable public figures we’ve all come to know and appreciate.
Here are six influential public figures purported to have Asperger’s syndrome.
Born in the capital of Sweden, Greta Thunberg became fascinated by climate change at the age of 8. She was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome and obsessive-compulsive disorder, just a few years later. Her enthusiasm for climate change, however, eventually led to her role as a climate activist after attending the 2018 protests of March for Our Lives and the Paris Agreement.
Since then, Thunberg amassed quite a following on social media, where she has voiced her support for climate change movements and received countless honorary awards and criticism alike. In April 2019, Time magazine listed Thunberg as one of the most influential people of 2019.
Occupation: Fashion Model
Many portray living with Asperger’s syndrome as petrifying. For Heather Kuzmich, a well-known American fashion model from Valparaiso, Indiana, she feared approaching strangers in public and social interactions.
Near the time of her father’s death, at the age of 15, Kuzmich was diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. Nonetheless, Kuzmich still sustained a successful modeling career, appearing on America’s Next Top Model and the front cover of a popular publication known as Spectrum Magazine. Her struggle with autism is well documented through media appearances on Good Morning America and the New York Times.
In 2009, Susan Boyle, a Scottish singer with Asperger’s syndrome, took the stage as a contestant on Britain’s Got Talent. Singing her version of a musical track from Les Misérables, the 68-year-old became a viral sensation on the video-sharing platform YouTube, earning her a spot as runner-up in the contest’s finale.
In recent media appearances, Boyle opened up about her diagnosis with Asperger’s, having previously believed her condition was the result of minor brain damage at birth. As of 2019, Boyle is considered one of the most prominent singers in Scotland, following numerous musical record releases.
Sir Philip Anthony Hopkins
Anthony Hopkins, an Academy award-winning Welsh actor, director, and former British Army soldier, is best known for his role in several notable suspenseful films.
During media interviews, Hopkins detailed his diagnosis of autism publicized nearly 10 years ago. At one of those interviews, Hopkins was asked if Asperger’s helped his career as an actor, in which he responded: “I do like people. I do like to get inside their heads. I definitely look at people differently.”
In February 2015, the Pentagon released a report profiling Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, President of the Russian Federation. In the think tank report, a team of researchers claimed that Putin carries the high-functioning form of autism: Asperger’s syndrome. In the report released to the US military’s Office of Net Assessment, Dr. Stephen Porges, a professor of psychiatry at the University of North Carolina, stated: “Putin carries a form of autism. Neurological development was significantly interrupted in infancy.”
The Pentagon report was refuted by officials close to the Russian President, however, some academics still theorize the neurodevelopmental disorder best fits most of his political decisions and actions. And some online media still associate the report as likely.
Born in England, Peter Howson is a Scottish-based painter best known for his artwork during the 1993 Bosnian Civil War. Inspired by his family’s religious culture, Howson’s first finished masterpiece was a Crucifixion, painted just at six years old.
In 2010, the BBC in Scotland aired a documentary unveiling how Howson dealt with the difficulties associated with Asperger’s syndrome during the renovation of the St Andrew’s Cathedral. Since his appearance, Howson has established a formidable reputation as one of his generation’s leading figurative painters.