21 Famous People With Autism Breaking Down Barriers
The autism spectrum is a condition of the nervous system that causes difficulties with social skills, communication issues, repetitive behavior, and intense interests. It’s sometimes referred to as Autism Spectrum Disorder or ASD. However, the use of “disorder” is controversial in the medical profession and the autism community. Throughout history, numerous people have been on the autism spectrum or possibly had it, including many famous people with autism.
There’s no way of knowing for sure, but many historical figures displayed traits of autism. There are lots of famous people today who are on the spectrum but embrace it. Most of these famous people didn’t learn about their diagnosis until adulthood. For the most part, everyone just considers them to be “eccentric,” “odd,” or “unpredictable.” Regardless, they overcame the obstacles in their way. They are some of the most influential people in their fields of work, including science, music, math, art, and more.
There are varying levels of autism that a person might experience. Those with autism might find it challenging to have a lot of friends and often become intensely interested in one subject. They might even feel overwhelmed at parties and prefer to be alone. Most usually only have a few friends that are understanding and supportive.
Many famous people with autism have found a way to channel their skills into becoming the very best in their profession. They can focus on one single goal or subject and turn it into a million-dollar idea. Here’s a look at 21 famous people with autism breaking down barriers.
21 Famous People With Autism Breaking Down Barriers
1. Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein is possibly the most famous scientist in history. Einstein gained widespread attention for his theory of quantum mechanics and the theory of relativity. His contributions to science and math completely changed both fields.
As a child, he struggled to talk and sometimes came across as eccentric. He could also become incredibly focused on his work. It’s impossible to know for sure if Einstein had autism but based on his traits, he was most likely on the spectrum.
2. Anthony Hopkins
Two-time Academy Award winner Anthony Hopkins is one of the greatest actors of his generation. He starred in several classic movies, including Silence of the Lambs, The Remains of the Day, and The Father.
As a child, doctors diagnosed Hopkins with Asperger syndrome, which later merged with autism. He shows several traits of autism, such as difficulty maintaining friendships and obsessive thinking.
3. Temple Grandin
Scientist Temple Grandin is one of the most influential activists in the autistic community. She’s a significant figure in the treatment of animals and is a professor of Animal Sciences at Colorado State University.
She’s an outspoken autism activist that often shares her life story. Grandin noted she didn’t speak for the first four years of her life. Therefore, doctors diagnosed her with “brain damage.” It wasn’t until much later in life that she discovered she was on the autism spectrum.
4. Greta Thunberg
Activist Greta Thunberg is best known for addressing climate change and challenging world leaders to do their part. She famously addressed the UN Climate Action Summit about their lack of progress in tackling the climate crisis. Thunberg is also an autism activist who considers autism to be her superpower.
Doctors diagnosed her with obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety disorder, and Asperger syndrome. Thunberg embraced her autism and used it to become one of the most influential people in the world.
5. Daryl Hannah
World-famous actress Daryl Hannah has starred in classic movies such as Blade Runner, Wall Street, and Kill Bill. As a child, she suffered from crippling shyness and isolation, which led to doctors diagnosing her with autism.
Her parents were incredibly supportive and helped her find success. Some of those traits remain as an adult, as Hannah often stays out of the spotlight. However, her obsession with movies led to her finding a career in Hollywood.
6. Dan Harmon
Dan Harmon is the genius creator of Community and co-creator of the animated series Rick and Morty. Harmon is known for his obsessive style of creating and writing a series.
He began researching Asperger syndrome when creating the character Abed for Community. Harmon related to the symptoms, so he decided to visit a doctor. The doctor confirmed Harmon’s suspicion that he was on the autism spectrum. Harmon admits he began to identify and relate more to Abed as the series continued.
7. Emily Dickinson
Brilliant poet Emily Dickinson was ahead of her time. She only released a handful of poems during her lifetime and didn’t receive the recognition she would get after her death. Many experts believe Dickinson displayed traits of autism.
She liked to be alone and had a small circle of friends. She never spoke to her friends verbally and instead wrote them letters. Locals called her eccentric for always wearing white clothing. However, those are all signs of autism.
8. Tim Burton
Filmmaker Tim Burton is best known for directing classic movies like Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands, and Big Fish. Fans and critics consider Burton a genius with a unique and eccentric personality. For years, there’s been speculation that he’s on the autism spectrum.
Burton’s former domestic partner, actress Helena Bonham Carter, researched autism during their relationship. She openly believes the iconic director displays traits of autism and Asperger syndrome, although he has never visited a doctor for an official diagnosis.
9. Charles Darwin
Charles Darwin is one of the most influential people in history. Few people have impacted the world centuries after their death like Darwin. Darwin’s theory of evolution is groundbreaking and life-changing.
He often displayed traits of the autism spectrum, notably his obsession with his work. He was also quiet and shy and didn’t enjoy social interactions. Instead, he preferred to communicate through letters as opposed to in-person.
10. Susan Boyle
In 2009, Susan Boyle became a household name with her outstanding performances on the reality competition series Britain’s Got Talent. Throughout her life, Boyle’s family and friends considered her a bit eccentric but didn’t realize she had autism.
As a child, doctors diagnosed her with a learning disability due to being deprived of oxygen at birth. After her success on Britain’s Got Talent, Boyle felt overwhelmed from being in the spotlight and had a brief stay at a clinic. It wasn’t until 2012 that doctors diagnosed Boyle with autism. She then learned different ways to cope with her autism.
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11. Satoshi Tajiri
Satoshi Tajiri is the brilliant mind behind the beloved Pokemon franchise. Since childhood, Tajiri has had two obsessions that consumed his life. First, he has a deep love for arcades and video games. His second favorite hobby was insect collecting.
Later, Taijri combined the two passions of his life to create the groundbreaking franchise Pokemon. Tajiri’s focus on his two passions and isolation are signs of being on the autism spectrum.
12. Elon Musk
With an estimated net worth of $150 billion, business tycoon Elon Musk is one of the wealthiest people in the world. He’s behind cutting-edge technology that’s keeping up with a rapidly changing world. Musk often makes appearances on popular TV shows to discuss his latest projects and business ventures.
In 2021, he hosted the popular sketch comedy series Saturday Night Live and announced he was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome. He claimed he was the first celebrity with Asperger’s to host SNL.
13. Jerry Seinfeld
Stand-up comedian Jerry Seinfeld is best known as the co-creator and star of the groundbreaking sitcom Seinfeld. Jerry is famous for his observational humor and unique perception of various subjects. He also tends to be obsessive and doesn’t like social interactions.
During an interview with NBC News in 2014, Seinfeld stated he believes he’s on the autism spectrum. The comedian received a little backlash for the comments since a doctor didn’t diagnose him. He apologized for his remarks and clarified that he relates to people on the autism spectrum.
14. Sir Isaac Newton
Sir Issac Newton is one of history’s most influential mathematicians and scientists. His impact reverberated throughout time with groundbreaking theories. It’s now believed that Newton possibly had autism or, more specifically, Asperger syndrome.
He displayed several traits of autism, including awkward social skills and isolating himself from others. Newton had a unique ability to have laser focus and concentration on his work, which is another trait of autism.
15. Tony DeBlois
Blind musician Tony DeBlois falls under the category of an autistic savant. DeBlois has many skills that he struggles with, like social interactions and awkward conversations. However, he’s also unbelievably skilled as a piano player, partly due to his autism.
DeBlois was a premature baby weighing less than three pounds. Doctors gave him an overload of oxygen, which caused him to go blind. Fortunately, this didn’t stop him from becoming a musical legend, with DeBlois mastering the piano by age two and going on to become one of the greats to twinkle the ivories.
16. Lewes Caroll
The iconic author Lewis Caroll is best known for writing the classic novels Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through The Looking-Glass. Not only was he a brilliant writer, but he was also a mathematician and inventor. Caroll’s friendship with young girls has caused a great deal of controversy since his death. Many people believe he had an inappropriate relationship with them.
However, others assume that his behavior and friendship with young girls might be traits of the autism spectrum. For instance, he struggled to communicate and had poor social skills, and actually found it easier to communicate with kids, a common trait of autism.
17. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is the most famous composer from the Classical Period. His groundbreaking music transcends time and continues to influence musicians. However, many of his best-known traits might actually be signs of autism.
Several of his peers considered him unpredictable and eccentric. Rumors suggest he once got so bored that he started meowing like a cat while doing cartwheels. Aside from his famous short attention span, he zoned in on his work while blocking everything else from his mind. That unique skill enabled him to create over 800 masterpieces in his short life span.
18. Henry Cavendish
Scientist Henry Cavendish is best known for his discovery of hydrogen. He’s one of history’s most influential scientists whose theories continue to have a significant impact. Experts and doctors today suspect that Cavendish might have been on the autism spectrum due to many personality traits.
He was painfully shy, avoided social gatherings, and rarely made eye contact. At the time, people called him eccentric because he liked to be alone and isolated himself from society. Rumors suggest that he was so shy around women that he had a secret staircase built so he could avoid his housekeeper.
19. Hannah Gadsby
Hannah Gadsby is a world-famous stand-up comedian that first made a name for herself in her homeland of Australia. Since her childhood, Gadsby admits that she has always felt out of place. Like many comedians, her friends and family just thought she was odd and eccentric.
Later in life, she discovered that she was on the spectrum. She’s always displayed traits of autism, such as staying out of the spotlight and obsessing over her work.
20. Steve Jobs
The founder of Apple, Steve Jobs, is one of the most influential people of the last fifty years. He completely changed how people interact and consume entertainment. Many people speculated for years that he was on the autism spectrum due to his eccentric personality.
Jobs lacked empathy and had a unique way of thinking, which helped him create his groundbreaking products. Plus, Jobs tended to become obsessed with his work, another sign of autism.
21. Andy Warhol
There isn’t a person in the world that doesn’t know Andy Warhol. He’s one of the greatest artists in history. He’s known for his groundbreaking and highly influential style.
There’s debate over the idea that Warhol was on the spectrum. Some experts believe Warhol displayed signs of autism, such as his repetitive style of art and eccentric behavior during interviews. However, many people dispute the diagnosis.
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