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As medical research continues, more doctors and the world understand the various mental, physical, and developmental issues plaguing people. One of those clarifying disorders is Asperger’s syndrome, named after pediatrician Hans Asperger, who described the children he cared for as individuals “who struggled to form friendships, did not understand others’ gestures or feelings, engaged in one-sided conversations about their favorite interests, and were clumsy.” While he made this observation in 1944, the disorder would take 50 years to be included in the American Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
With that final inclusion, though, so many more have been able to be diagnosed and, therefore, learn something new about themselves. By 2015, it was estimated that 37.2 million worldwide (0.5 percent of the global population) had been diagnosed with the disorder. Some of them have even been some of the famous people that we’ve grown to love.
Here are 37 famous people with Asperger’s.
1. Courtney Love
Courtney Love, whose career has spanned more than four decades, revealed in her biography Courtney Love: The Real Story that she was diagnosed with a mild form of autism when she was nine. She also noted that she’d been seeing psychiatrists since she was 3.
“Observational therapy. TM for tots. You name it, I’ve been there,” Love once said. “When I talk about being introverted, I was diagnosed with autistic (sic). At an early age, I would not speak. Then I simply bloomed.”
2. Susan Boyle
Susan Boyle made headlines when she walked on the stage of Britain’s Got Talent in 2009. She shut up the laughter and snickers of the crowds and even the judges when she opened her mouth and flawlessly belted out “I Dreamed a Dream” from Les Misérables. She went on to sell millions of albums, go on world tours, and more.
It took several years for doctors to diagnose her. “I always knew [other diagnoses] was an unfair label. Now I have a clearer understanding of what’s wrong, and I feel relieved and a bit more relaxed about myself,” Boyle once commented. “Asperger’s doesn’t define me. It’s a condition that I have to live with and work through. … People will have a greater understanding of who I am and why I do the things I do.”
3. Dan Aykroyd
Dan Aykroyd is one of the original members that made Saturday Night Live one of the most famous sketch comedies in the world, as he brought to life recurring series like the Blues Brothers and Coneheads.
He is the first self-diagnosed on our list of famous people with Asperger’s, having revealed the fact to the HuffPost Show with Marc Lamont Hill and Roy Sekoff. He said it was his characters that helped him. In fact, he has said that one of his symptoms of the syndrome is his obsession with ghosts and law enforcement.
4. Dan Harmon
We’ve got a self-diagnosed entry on our famous people with Asperger’s, including screenwriter and comedian Dan Harmon. He made the discovery about himself in 2011 while writing for the hit show Community, particularly the character of Abed.
“I started looking up these symptoms [of Asperger’s], just to know what they are,” he told Wired magazine. “And the more I looked them up, the more familiar they started to seem.” It was from there that he self-diagnosed himself. He further said on a podcast hosted by Kevin Pollak, “I know I’m not normal, but I think the important thing is that … I started to discover that I had a lot more in common with Abed than I did with Jeff.”
5. Daryl Hannah
Actress and environmental activist Daryl Hannah came forward about her diagnosis of autism and Asperger’s syndrome in 2013 in an exclusive interview with People magazine. The Blade Runner and Splash actress said she was diagnosed as a child, but it has affected her career at times.
She said she would suffer from “debilitating shyness,” which made it so she couldn’t do talk shows or attend her movie premieres “not because I was above it, but because I was terrified.” She further noted that “acting for me was about going to the Land of Oz and meeting the Tin Man. It still is.” But, because it meant also being the center of attention, it “always freaked me out.”
6. Andy Warhol
Andy Warhol, best known for his unique visual artist as well as the films he has directed and produced, was never officially diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, but experts have wondered if he may have suffered from it based on his antics.
“By comparing Warhol’s traits to common symptoms of ASD, medical professionals believe that he was most definitely autistic, but an official diagnosis can never be given,” according to Neurodiversity. “However, whether or not Warhol was placed on the autism spectrum, he made a profound impact on the art world … and Campbell’s Soup.”
7. Sir Anthony Hopkins
Sir Anthony Hopkins is one of the film industry’s most prominent actors, directors, and producers and is best known for his starring roles in The Silence of the Lambs and The Father.
Hopkins was late to reveal his diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome compared to others on our list of famous people with Asperger’s. He told The Desert Sun in a January 2017 interview that he was diagnosed in 2014 in his late 70s. He did, however, indicate that his condition was on “the high end.” He later added in 2020 that “it’s a great gift, actually.”
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8. David Byrne
David Byrne, a Scottish-American singer, songwriter, record producer, and musician, is a man of all trades, best known for being a founding member, lead singer, guitarist, and principal songwriter for the groundbreaking new wave band the Talking Heads.
Byrne is another one of those on our list of famous people with Asperger’s that has never been officially diagnosed, but he has described himself as being on the autism spectrum, which includes Asperger’s. He noted that he sees his disorder as a “superpower” because it “allows him to hyperfocus on his creative pursuits.”
9. Isaac Asimov
Isaac Asimov was considered one of the “Big Three” science fiction writers thanks to works like the Foundation series, the Galactic Empire series, and the Robot series.
The rumors of his Asperger’s syndrome all began with the release of the novel In Memory Yet Green: The Autobiography of Isaac Asimov, 1920-1954. “Perhaps the most salient thing I gleaned from [the book] was that Isaac Asimov had a major case of Asperger’s going, even if no one had identified the syndrome yet at the time he wrote this first extensive volume of his autobiography,” wrote one Goodreads user. “Asimov is almost a textbook case of an Aspie. (Note: I am not a clinician, but I do have Asperger’s, and the signs are unmistakable to a fellow Aspie).”
10. John Denver
With songs like “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” “Thank God I’m a Country Boy,” and “Rocky Mountain High,” among others, John Denver was an icon in the world of folk rock and country music. He is another of the famous people on our list who was only rumored to have Asperger’s, but based on what we know about personality, it seems to fit, and we can see why people may think that.
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Famed rapper Eminem stayed true to his love of expression through music, revealing his diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome in his song “Wicked Ways.” He further explained in interviews that he was so shy and awkward in school that he would fake illness so that he could stay home. He also said he was most interested in staying home so he could read, draw comic book characters, or write poetry.
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12. Tommy Dis Brisay
If it weren’t for Tommy Dis Brisay’s diagnosis, we may not have had the skilled runner in the world of athletics.
“At five years of age, his parents were told he would never develop the ability to speak. A string of medications and countless struggles led to being overweight as a teenager,” according to the Applied Behavioral Analysis Edu. “But his parents were committed to their son’s success, and they encouraged him to develop an interest. His father, Peter, an avid runner, encouraged Tommy to take to the trails. A jog with his father was all he needed to get hooked on running.”
13. Elon Musk
Elon Musk went all out with his announcement, unlike others on our famous people with Asperger’s list. The founder, chairman, and chief executive officer of SpaceX, in addition to the owner of Twitter and founder of Tesla, made the public announcement in May 2021 when he hosted Saturday Night Live.
“I’m actually making history tonight as the first person with Asperger’s to host SNL, or at least the first to admit it, so I won’t make a lot of eye contact with the cast tonight. But don’t worry, I’m pretty good at running human in emulation mode.” The controversy surrounding this announcement, however, was that he had never officially been diagnosed.
14. Jerry Seinfeld
Jerry Seinfeld, best known for his sitcom Seinfeld as well as his stand-up comedy, for which he was named the 12th greatest stand-up comedian of all time by Comedy Central in 2004, has been a questionable one on our list of famous people with Asperger’s.
While he has been “self-diagnosed” on the autism spectrum, unlike others on our famous list of people with Asperger’s list who did the same, Seinfeld got a lot of criticism for it. This prompted him to retract his statement, making the clarification that he was talking about a play that focused on the condition, saying that he “related to … on some level.”
15. Bill Gates
Bill Gates may be a well-to-do business executive best known for co-founding Microsoft, but some of his antics observed by others have led many to the rumor that he may have Asperger’s syndrome, or at least something similar.
As The Guardian puts it, Gates “has been described as having autistic-type traits: lack of eye contact, poor social skills, a monotonous voice, a prodigious memory and tendency to rock backward and forwards during business meetings.”
16. James Taylor
James Taylor is one of the world’s most famous singers and guitarists, selling more than 100 million records worldwide and being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000. It just goes to show that a disability does not have to hold you back.
Taylor is another whose Asperger’s syndrome is only rumored, with many believing that he felt alone as a child, which led to him recording his hit song, “You’ve Got a Friend.”
17. Robin Williams
Robin Williams was one of the most beloved actors of our time, with classic comedic timing and so much talent that when he took his own life, the world was shocked. While it was revealed at the time that he did suffer from depression, many have also suggested that his social awkwardness and hyperactive nature pointed toward him having Asperger’s syndrome. The disorder has also been known to lead to what’s known as the “troubled artist” stereotype.
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18. Greta Thunberg
Greta Thunberg is the youngest person to appear on our list of famous people with Asperger’s. The young environmental activist, best known for stepping up to challenge the leaders of the world to take action for climate change mitigation, was diagnosed with Asperger’s when she was 11. She also suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder and selective mutism, the latter of which she says means she “only speaks when necessary.”
19. Michael Jackson
There’s no doubt in most people’s minds that Michael Jackson was the King of Pop. There is also most likely no doubt that he had a quirky personality, which has led to speculation that he had Asperger’s syndrome.
According to the official Britain Asperberger-Syndrome website, “his unusual behavior has often been blamed on his upbringing, however his siblings are relatively normal, with a similar upbringing. … Michael is often seen as shy and has difficulty relating to many people.”
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20. Marilyn Monroe
Famed actress and model Marilyn Monroe may enter our list of famous people with Asperger’s as one of those that were rumored, considering it is believed that she suffered from borderline personality disorder; according to many modern psychologists, Asperger’s doesn’t seem that far off. Many have also alluded to the way she composed herself in interviews, suggesting that she may have been partially nonverbal, a common symptom of those with the syndrome.
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21. Alfred Hitchcock
Sir Alfred Hitchcock was iconic for his films, particularly in the suspense and thriller genres. He is yet another whose unique genius when it comes to film has led many historians and psychologists to agree that he may have had Asperger’s syndrome.
22. Charles Darwin
Of all those who were rumored to have Asperger’s on our list of famous people with Asperger’s, the rumor about English naturalist Charles Darwin, famed for his Theory of Evolution, is the most prominent, considering the claim by a leading psychiatrist in the Daily Telegraph.
Professor Michael Fitzgerald of Trinity College in Ireland said that while Darwin had an “extraordinary attention to detail,” he had “difficulties with social interactions.”
“It is suggested that the same genes that produce autism and Asperger’s syndrome are also responsible for great creativity and originality. Asperger’s syndrome gave Darwin the capacity to hyperfocus, the extra capacity for persistence, the enormous ability to see details that other people missed, the endless energy for a lifetime dedication to a narrow task, and the independence of mind so critical to original research.”
23. Alex Plank
Alex Plank, best known for his roles on FX’s The Bridge and CBS’ The Good Doctor, was 9 years old when he was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome. To help him find others like him, he founded the online community Wrong Planet when he was 17.
24. Chris Rock
Comedian and actor Chris Rock, best known for his stand-up routines that tackled sensitive subjects like human sexuality, race relations, and observational comedy, revealed his diagnosis of a non-verbal learning disorder on September 18, 2020. He noted, in particular, that he has a difficult time understanding non-verbal social cues.
According to Today, “The actor went through nine hours of cognitive tests and was eventually diagnosed with NVLD, which makes it difficult for him to understand nonverbal signals.”
25. Tim Burton
Tim Burton is one of the most successful film directors and producers of the day, with such films as Beetlejuice, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, and Darks Shadows among his repertoires. It was his ex-partner Helena Bonham Carter who revealed his struggle with Asperger’s syndrome, noting that while he is highly intelligent, he lacks social skills.
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26. Chris Packham
Chris Packham, a naturalist best known for the CBBC children’s nature series The Really Wild Show (1986-1995), was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome while he was in his 20s.
In interviews, he noted that he was “lucky to get through that period of my life.”
27. Patrick George “Paddy” Considine
Actor and filmmaker Paddy Considine, known for films like In America, Dead Man’s Shoes, and The Cry of the Owl, was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome in 2010 at the age of 36.
He has said in an interview with The Telegraph that he suffers from “a debilitating sense of detachment from both the people around him and his surroundings and that he struggled on a practical level with certain noises, bright lights, and even wallpaper and fabrics presented problems.”
28. Travis Meeks
Days of the New’s Travis Meeks has said that his Asperger’s syndrome has been the source of many of his faults and shortcomings. Diagnosed in 2005, he has been extremely open to the diagnosis, accepting it as one of his traits. He has been quoted as promptly mentioning the fact along with other things about him.
“I am Travis Meeks. I am an artist. I am a Maestro of my craft. I am a human being. I am a lot of things. I am a recovering addict. I have Asperger’s Syndrome. I am a good person. I do get angry and aggravated. I am human, but I work on things every day. I live a life of both light and dark and finding the balance between those two … and that reflects in my music and art.”
29. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Who out there doesn’t know the name Mozart? He was one of the greatest composers of all time and a musical prodigy at only 5 years old. However, he did suffer from some social difficulties, leading to many believing he, too, suffered from Asperger’s syndrome. If it is true, it proves that the disorder can’t stop someone from becoming one of the most accomplished human beings in history.
30. Craig Nicholls
Australian singer and songwriter Craig Nicholls’ reveal of having Asperger’s syndrome in 2004 was not an easy one. His disorder was revealed during a court date in Sydney, Australia after being accused of kicking a photographer and bleating at an audience during a show with the Vines.
31. Gary Numan
Gary Numan, an English singer, composer, and musician, once said of his Asperger’s in a 2001 interview, “Polite conversation has never been one of my strong points. Just recently, I actually found out that I’d got a mild form of Asperger’s syndrome, which basically means I have trouble interacting with people. For years, I couldn’t understand why people thought I was arrogant, but now it all makes more sense.”
32. James Durbin
James Durbin, known for being a finalist on the hit reality singing competition American Idol and lead singer of Quiet Riot, was 10 years old when he was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome. He has said that his love for playing guitar was his therapy to get through it.
“Music is like medicine,” he said, crediting his mom for being supportive throughout his childhood. “She made sure that I had great outlets, and she got a godsend when she discovered I loved music, art, and theater.”
33. Ludwig van Beethoven
Mozart is not the only famous composer rumored to have Asperger’s. Ludwig van Beethoven, who was also deaf, was also rumored to exhibit common tendencies of the syndrome.
34. Jim Eisenreich
Major League Baseball player Jim Eisenreich is one on our list of famous people with Asperger’s who almost saw his career end because of his struggle with the disease, having been forced to leave the MLB in 1984. Luckily, upon his diagnosis, “medication, combined with a deeper understanding of his challenges, allowed him to return to the game he loved in 1986,” according to Applied Behavioral Analysis Edu.
35. Justin Hansen
Justin Hansen, a famed college football player, has his dad to thank for helping him overcome his Asperger’s syndrome. According to USA Today, “Human interaction has always been difficult for him. If his dad hadn’t dragged him out of the house and to the football field in grade school, Justin would be in his parent’s basement playing video games.”
36. Thomas Jefferson
Even some of the most powerful men in our country’s history haven’t been immune to rumors and speculations about having Asperger’s. President Thomas Jefferson reportedly had an inability to relate to others, was shy, and was sensitive to loud noises, all symptoms that those on the autism spectrum often exhibit. While most psychologists agree on the belief because of these and other quirky tendencies of his, the fact that documents about his early life were lost in a fire, there is no way of finding out whether his childhood suggests more arrows toward the disorder.
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