Thursday, December 17, 2009

Ari Ne'eman to be nominated for membership of National Council on Disability

Ari Ne'eman to be nominated for membership of National Council on Disability

There has been an announcement that Ari Ne'eman, the Founding President of the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network (ASAN), will be nominated by President Obama for a key posting in the Obama Administration, as a member of the National Council on Disability.

In April of this year Ne'eman and ASAN were at the centre of some controversy when ASAN launched a petition to ask Dr. Tony Attwood (a Queensland psychologist who has an international reputation as an Asperger syndrome expert) and Dr. Isabelle Hénault to stop associating with anti-Autistic hate groups. Radio interviews with Dr Attwood and Mr Ne'eman and a short discussion between these men from around this time are still available for downloading and listening from the website of the Asperger Women Association. As far as I know the issue between ASAN and Attwood and Henault has not been resolved. ASAN has also condemned unethical practices and publicity stunts of the infamous organization Autism Speaks. ASAN has been inolved with a number of protest petitions.

In May 2009 Ne'eman was profiled by Newsweek magazine, and the views of ASAN and Mr Ne'eman have been represented in publications such as New Scientist, The New York Times and Time magazine.

My only reservation about Mr Ne'eman's appointment is that he is a board member of the Autism National Committee (AUTCOM), an organization that is associated with facilitated communication and is also associated with Amanda Baggs, a subject that has been debunked by science and a person who's credibility has been quaestioned by many people.

Despite these reservations, I was pleased to find out about this news and I wish Mr Ne'eman the best of luck.

Read about President Obama's announcement here:

and at the blog Whose Planet Is It Anyway?

Asperger Women Association Radio Show

Newsweek magazine
Erasing Autism: Scientists are closing in on the genes linked to autism. So why is Ari Ne'eman so worried? by Claudia Kalb
List of living famous autistic people continues its inevitable growth

My only possible claim to fame in this world is my autistic habit of compiling lists of neurologically eccentric famous people. The very first posting that I made in this blog (back in 2006), and the reason why I started this blogging caper to start with, is my largest list, a list of famous autistic people. More recently I created a list of famous synaesthetes, which has proved to be most popular. I've had a couple of goes at listing famous living people who are or might be autistic, as identified by themselves or published sources. This month I have added another famous name to my list of famous living people who have Asperger syndrome or who are possibly autistic to any degree, bringing the total to 31 famous people (including five Australians and one New Zealander). They are a most lively and fascinating and controversial group of individuals.

I'd like to thank all of the famous people in my lists, and any others that I don't know about, who have spoken openly with journalists about Asperger syndrome, or who have discussed in their own writing the experience of being autistic in an autist-hostile world, or their own suspicions that they are somewhere on the autistic spectrum. The message is getting out that there are millions of people like us, and our talents and grievances can no longer be ignored.

Clever, Creative, Controversial: A referenced list of 31 famous living people who have been identified in any way as autistic, to any degree, during any period of their life, including famous people diagnosed with Asperger syndrome (AS)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The most interesting books that I have read in 2009

Coyle, Daniel
The talent code: unlocking the secret of skill in maths, art, music, sport and just about anything else. Random House Books, 2009.

Fitzpatrick, Michael
Defeating autism: a damaging delusion. Routledge, 2008.
[essential reading if you have a child with an autism diagnosis or work in the area of autism]

Goldacre, Ben
Bad science. Harper Perennial, 2008, 2009.
[A lot of this book is only of much interest to Brits, but there's still enough other stuff worth reading.]

Harpending, Henry & Cochran, Gregory
The 10,000 year explosion: how civilization accelerated human evolution. Basic Books, 2009.

[politically incorrect but most interesting]

Kirsch, Irving
The emperor's new drugs: exploding the antidepressant myth. The Bodley Head Ltd., 2009.
[Much of what we have been told about depression and the new antidepressant drugs are lies. How did this happen?]

Turin, Luca & Sanchez, Tania
Perfumes: the guide. Profile Books, 2008.
[Who would have thought that an authoritative book that rates and reviews perfumes would also inspire more laughter than many of the books classified as humour?]

And some more books that I hope to read soon

Cowen, Tyler
Create your own economy: the path to prosperity in a disordered world. Dutton Adult, 2009.

Cytowic, Richard & Eagleman, David
Wednesday is indigo blue: discovering the brain of synesthesia. The MIT Press, 2009.

Smith, Vernon L.
Discovery - a memoir. AuthorHouse, 2008.

Monday, November 30, 2009

It feels like it's been Christmas forever

Someone should write a Christmas carol with the title "It feels like it's been Christmas forever". It's still November, and I've already had enough of the festive season. Eaten an already stale-tasting fruit mince pie. Taken the little one to see Father Christmas (No Mum, his name is Santa Claus! Sandy Claws? NO!! SANTA CLAUS!). Done a little Christmas shopping amid dazzling baubles and unrealistically perfect Christmas table setting displays in department stores. Wondered how much longer Planet Earth can cope under the load of rampant consumerism before a complete ecological collapse. Resolved not to buy too much stuff, and to spend more time at the beach. Gawked at giant Christmas tree displays. Heard from rellies that I haven't had a thing to do with for years. Sniffed many a perfume. Been made nauseous by the smell of some quite terrible fragrances. Cursed those fools who mess about with classic perfumes and create deplorable new versions. Tested Guerlain's new fragrance. Enjoyed Guerlain's new fragrance. Coveted Guerlain's new fragrance. Convinced myself that it is too much of an extravagance. Gotten over it. Made a mental note that if I win lotto, I'll be at the Guerlain counter quick as a shot. Bought a bestseller by Richard Dawkins at a bargain price from a variety store for a Christmas gift. Felt smug about my bargain hunting success. Don't you think it is more than a little ironic that buying a book by the curmudgeonly king of atheists to give as a present has become a Christmas ritual for thousands of people all around the world?

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Today's forecast - more autism cure hype and early interference

I've heard on the news that our government's latest big initiative might be a national disability insurance scheme, and this could cover people who are deemed to be disabled from birth, presumably funding more of those much-hyped early intervention services. This would certainly apply to conditions on the autistic spectrum. I've no reason to believe that such funding would be conditional upon proper scientific evidence that such interventions are effective and do more good than harm. I've already seen so much uncritical hype in the Australian mass media supporting interventions that target autism, and I've never heard an Australian politician daring to question the effectiveness of such "therapies". Did you see Ross Coulthart's story about autism quack therapies on the Seven network's Sunday Night TV show last week? A heap of quackery, some of it potentially very dangerous, was shown in that story, and only the mildest tweet of scepticism from Mr Coulthart. Before I saw that story I had thought very highly of this journalist. Now I can see that he is of the same league as the 60 Minutes crowd.

What could this disability insurance scheme mean for autistic people? I guess it could mean that masses of children, many of them barely autistic or misdiagnosed, could be aggressively funnelled into the various types of early intervention, which are time-consuming and represent some burden to the parents and the subjects, some of which could make no difference at all to the children's trajectory of development.

I can also forsee another possible negative consequence of this. These highly qualified therapists are expected to produce good outcomes. There would be an ever-present pressure on them to identify improvements or even cures in their young patients. I can imagine that there could be many young autistic kids being put forward as success stories who are no longer autistic. And how many of these kids will go on in life to feel different, to feel like an outsider, to be an outsider, to run into brick walls and difficulties when faced with social situations that are unsuitable for them, only to be told that this is all nonsense because a nice lady therapist said they were cured of autism many years ago when they were 4 or 5 years old? It doesn't matter how much money you throw at a service, if it is essentially ineffective and misguided, the results will be nothing more than a delusion.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

The Interesting Case of Syd Barrett

(This article last added to November 2010, quotes added at end December 2010)

Lili Marlene has written ebooks about some other famous synaesthetes! These ebooks can be downloaded from Smashwords. Here is a link to Lili's author page at Smashwords:

For a number of years I have had fun maintaining and adding to my list of famous people who are, or were, or perhaps were, or perhaps are, on the autistic spectrum. What an fascinating bunch of people! It is a list full of genius, brilliance, eccentricity and original vision. For a long time I've been aware that the enigmatic Syd Barrett of Pink Floyd fame has been identified by some as an autist, but till recently I hadn't realized how widespread this speculation has been. I was intrigued when I recently read his sister's description of Barrett's synaesthesia. I was excited when I found a different description of Barrett's synaesthesia in another publication, from a different source. I knew this could be an effect of drugs, but I also know that there is quite a lot of overlap between my list of famous autists and my other list of famous synaesthetes.
To be honest, I hadn't been in a hurry to include Barrett in my list of famous autists, because his story is so often characterized as a sudden and tragic decline of a charming and extroverted young man into madness and a reclusive lifestyle, and autism just isn't like this. Autism and Asperger syndrome are not types of mental illness, they are more correctly categorized as disabilities that can have positive features, or valuable forms of human diversity. As far as I know, autistic spectrum conditions do not cause any sudden decline in sanity or functioning. These conditions are detectable from early childhood, probably having their origins before birth, and are highly genetically determined. The Syd Barrett story appeared to be a story about bad things that aren't autism.

I am aware that some other synaesthetes might be irritated to discover that Syd Barrett has been identified as a synesthete, for a number of reasons. Firstly, there are anecdotes (not many) in which synaesthesia has been misdiagnosed as psychosis or schizophrenia. This possibility is a thing that concerns many synaesthetes, and this is one reason why many synaesthetes will not mention or discuss their synaesthesia. One can imagine that a type of synesthesia such as coloured hearing or coloured music could be misunderstood as visual hallucination. So you can understand that some synaesthetes might be irritated to read that a famous person with the nickname "crazy diamond" experienced synaesthesia. Another reason why some synaesthetes might not be pleased to see Barrett identified as a synaesthete is that many of us are fed up with the joking about LSD and drugs that we often receive when we tell others about our sensory experiences. Synaesthetes are sometimes accused of being closet drug users by very rude and ignorant people. I have been unable to clarify whether any of Barrett's reported synaesthesia was experienced during periods in his life when he was known to have been not using LSD. His synaesthesia could have been nothing more notable than a drug side-effect, which would mean he was not necessarily a natural synaesthete born with an unusual brain. But considering Barrett's early creative talent, his many eccentricities and problems, I believe his brain must have been something exceptional.

Another reason why I wasn't jumping to include Barrett in my lists was my fear that if I started researching an outline of his life, I would find the subject so complex and mysterious that I would become hopelessly bogged down, ploughing through books over a span of weeks or months. That is exactly what has happened.

Syd Barrett's real name was Roger Barrett, and he used his real name for much of his life, which started in 1946 and ended in 2006. He was an English songwriter, singer, guitarist and visual artist, best known as a founding member and songwriter of the psychedelic rock band Pink Floyd. Barrett's membership of the band finished after repeated failure to perform during concerts. He had been the main songwriter. Barrett withdrew from public life, but released two solo albums in 1970, full of strange and unforgettable tunes with nonsense lyrics. Pink Floyd went on to become massively popular and commercially successful, their style evolving towards progressive rock, a popular musical genre that would enable millions of dim young men with limited prospects to experience the feeling of intellectual exhilaration without the necessity to read, learn or do anything much. Syd/Roger Barrett lived an apparently simple and solitary life, receiving royalty payments, until he died in 2006, leaving an estate worth over 1.5 million pounds to his siblings. His access to spending money had been controlled by his family (Willis 2002 p. 143). There has been much speculation about why Barrett ceased to be a member of Pink Floyd, withdrew from the public eye, shunned his own fans, left behind the nickname that he had never himself used or liked, and disconnected his home's door bell.

The most established explanation, that he developed schizophrenia as the result of the heavy use of LSD, is the least likely explanation, for many different reasons. Firstly, it appears that there is little or no scientific evidence that LSD causes schizophrenia (or any other serious mental illness). Medical researchers have found a link between cannabis use and schizophrenia, mediated by genetics, and some people have identified dope smoking as the cause of, or trigger for, Barrett's problems, but this cannot be proven. There is also evidence that long-term use of cannabis can cause cognitive deficits, which no one needs. But we needn't bother ourselves with speculation about what might have caused this supposed case of schizophrenia in the absence of any evidence that Barrett had schizophrenia at all. I have not come across any evidence that Barrett suffered from any of the characteristic features of schizophrenia such as delusions or auditory hallucinations ("hearing voices"). In all of the books and articles that have been written about Barrett and Pink Floyd, where is there any description of any irrational belief system, schizophrenic "word salad" or the wearing of any tin foil hat? Pink Floyd members reportedly claimed that Barrett was unusual before he started using drugs heavily (Pareles 2006), undermining the theory that Barrett was a regular guy driven insane by drugs. In addition to an absence of evidence of schizophrenia, there is positive evidence that Barrett did not have schizophrenia. One is obliged to take seriously Barrett's sister's claim that Barrett was examined by psychiatrists and found to be not insane (Titchmarsh 2007). According to the Willis biography Barrett was never sectioned and was never given a diagnosis nor medication by the psychiatric profession, except for the drug "Largactyl" (Largactil?) following two extreme fits of anger, a situation that would not be inconsistent with an autistic condition. Largactil/Chlorpromazine is a drug that has a number of psychiatric and medical indications, including the short-term management of aggressive or severe anxiety episodes, treatment for amphetamine overdose, schizophrenia, hiccups and tetanus. It was once incorrectly believed to be an antidote to LSD.

Barrett had issues but he wasn't schizophrenic or insane. Pink Floyd member Roger Waters is a prominent exponent of the theory of Barrett as a schizophrenic, and this idea has been an inspiration for some Pink Floyd songs. I personally find it disturbing that one can still find many references to Barrett's mythological schizophrenia in books and articles in print and on the internet, and also in filmed interviews. I am sure that if I were to describe the late New Zealander novelist Janet Frame as a schizophrenic author I would promptly have Frame's fans and family's disapproval coming down on my head like a ton of bricks, but all and sundry feel free to apply to the late Mr Barrett a psychiatric label which qualified psychiatrists apparently decided was not correct.

Schizophrenia isn't the only type of mental illness that has been suggested as a diagnosis for Barrett. Bipolar has apparently been suggested as an explanation for Barrett's withdrawal, but I have not found any document outlining this theory. One friend of Barrett's has been quoted as saying "It always felt to me as if he'd fallen into a depression more than anything." (Blake 2007 p. 142). Former band-mate David Gilmour put forward a theory that a combination of epilepsy induced by strobe stage lighting and drugs altered Barrett's mental health (Geiger 2006). A similar fanciful theory involving mescaline and strobe lighting has been put forward (Miles 2006 p. 107-108). Some have argued that Barrett simply had a breakdown due to stress. Biographer Tim Willis has described Barrett's period of withdrawal as ".. an extended nervous breakdown exacerbated by his drug intake .." (Willis 2002). Willis drove home the point that Barrett had been under great pressure from 1965-1972 by including a detailed schedule of Barrett's concert and studio work during this period, as an appendix to the biography. Barrett developed some chronic medical illnesses later in life and died prematurely of cancer at the age of 60. I thought the speculations about the cause of Barrett's breakdown and withdrawal on page 139 of the Watkinson and Anderson biography Crazy diamond were insightful. They wrote about Barrett's belief in total freedom, the loss of his father in his early teens, the easy access to drugs and girls, and his lack of discipline. The teens and early twenties are a period of life when young people need to master important skills, continue to exercise self-control and find a sustainable role within society. Failure to achieve these things is a personal disaster.

I am surprised that I have not come across any argument for ADHD as an explanation for Barrett's problems and childhood oddities, considering his lifelong history of "hyperactive" behaviour, minor conduct problems as a child, his creative gifts contrasting with mediocre academic achievement and his drug-taking behaviour that could be interpreted as irresponsible or impulsive.

One could also speculate that Barrett could possibly have been an intellectually gifted underachiever. I have not been able to find any information about any IQ or scholastic testing or scores. His mother has been criticised for giving him the idea that he was some type of genius. Many would argue that this label was appropriate, considering his creative legacy. The literature about the educational needs of gifted children tells us that gifted kids who are not properly identified, not appropriately educated, or who have hidden learning problems, are at risk of developing self-defeating patterns of behaviour or mental illness, and can become deliberate trouble-makers.

All sources agree that Barrett was a heavy user of illicit drugs when he was young. Later in life he was a cigarette smoker, a chain smoker according to the Watkinson and Anderson biography. He used LSD in the 1960s, but how much is a matter for debate. Heroin is a possibility. Biographer Tim Willis has described Barrett as ".. a fanatical dope-smoker - day and night, year in, year out .." (Willis 2002). Barrett also used the sedative hypnotic drug Mandrax, which was popular as a recreational drug in the late 1960s to early 1970s because it could be used to bring about a state of waking trance, and it was also thought to have aphrodisiac effects. It is easy to imagine how a combination of a pressured work life and illicit drug use could lead to burnout, breakdown or a complete lack of functioning. We are left with the question of why Barrett chose to be a heavy drug user. If a mental health issue was a part of the Barrett story, it could have been a motivation for, rather than the effect of, illicit drug use. Autistic people are particularly vulnerable to anxiety-related disorders, stress, depression and "nervous breakdowns". This could explain why Barrett might have been unable to cope with the same work pressures that his band-mates apparently were able to cope with.

For a long time there has been speculation that Barrett was autistic (Gallo 2006). Willis described Barrett's mind as "... extraordinary ... bordering on the autistic or Aspergic." (Willis 2006). Barrett had talent in the areas of visual art and music, two in a group of talents that are characteristic of the autistic-type mind, and these talents were evident early in life (Barrett learned piano at the age of 8). Barrett could be described as creatively gifted. People who have Asperger syndrome (AS) typically develop a strong, sustained interest in a narrow, unusual subject or interest, and the primary or only motivation is enjoyment or curiosity. Barrett's sister Rosemary has described his interest in Byzantine art " was an enormous interest of his and he said it was going to be a book but it was really just a collection of dates and facts that interested him." (Titchmarsh 2007). This project was pursued "purely for his own enjoyment" (Willis 2002 p. 144). It is also worth noting that his painting from his school years to late in his life was done to please himself (Chapman 2010 p.8).

Autism is an inherited condition, and Barrett had many personality traits in common with his father, and some could be interpreted as autistic traits. His pathologist father was also a painter in his spare time and also had a great love of music. Like his son, Dr Barrett enjoyed learning about a subject in great depth, gaining an expert's knowledge of fungi and cot death syndrome (Miles 2006). Fitting the stereotype of a father of an autistic child, he had a scientific/technical career and spent little time alone with his kids (Miles 2006), but according to Barrett's sister, Barrett and his father "... had a sort of unique closeness." (Manning & Dodd 2006, p. 10). In Watkinson's biography of Barrett, an "... exceptionally warm personality" (Watkinson & Anderson 1993 p.13) is cited as a characteristic that father and son had in common, which does go against the stereotype of the cold autist. One would expect family members who are both on the spectrum might have a special empathy, so it was probably a terrible loss for Barrett when his father died of cancer when Roger was only 16. Perhaps it is notable that both father and son died prematurely from cancer.

Two (probably related) characteristics of Syd/Roger Barrett's strike me as particularly compelling evidence of autism; his apparently decades-long habit of bouncing, and his toe-walking during adulthood. Barrett bounced on the balls of his feet during his high school years, a habit that persisted into adulthood (Miles 2006) and Willis has described finding Barrett bouncing on the balls of his feet when he answered his door, at some time during the last years of his life (Willis 2002). Long-term girlfriend Libby Gausden persuaded Barrett to stop bouncing for a while (Willis 2002 p. 45), but that did not last, and neither did the relationship. Numerous mentions of Barrett's bouncing and odd gait can be found in books about Pink Floyd and Barrett. The first-hand description of Barrett's strange walking (in a public place) on page 154 of the Watkinson and Anderson biography by makes it clear to the reader that Barrett was a fundamentally unusual man. Autistic people often have the habit of rocking or jumping about, not just once in a while, but a habit that can last years or even a lifetime. Even the most intelligent and accomplished autists can have such habits - Bill Gates is almost as famous for his leaping as he is famous for his extreme wealth. There is some evidence that Barrett’s unusual habit of bouncing on the balls of his feet while walking might have had advantages over the normal way that people walk and run. A study reported in New Scientist in January 2010 has found that running on the balls of the feet instead of the heels has much less physical impact on the feet, and two-thirds of endurance runners who habitually run barefoot run on the balls of their feet. Barrett was probably barefoot more often than is usual while growing up, because shoes do not accommodate toe-walking.

Toe walking is common during early childhood, but if a child walks on their toes past the age of three years, a medical evaluation is recommended. Toe walking can be a sign of a number of different conditions and illnesses, including autism. In Mark Blake's book about Pink Floyd a person who had seen Barrett in his pre and post decline periods was quoted as saying ".. he was still walking on his tip toes, in the way that he did." (Blake 2007 p. 223). A description of Barrett standing on tip toes, from another associate of Barrett's, can be found on page 30. Toe walking could have been one reason why Barrett had the habit of wearing shoes without socks or laces, sometimes wearing no shoes at all. Toe walking might have damaged his footwear - he was known for wearing elastic bands to hold his boots on after the zippers broke. These habits dated back to his school days. Another odd habit of Barrett's that could be interpreted as a sign of autism was wearing minimal clothing during all seasons, as reported by neighbours (Willis 2002 p. 12). He was apparently not troubled by cold temperatures. Willis has described Barrett answering his front door wearing only underwear. Asperger syndrome (AS) expert Dr Tony Attwood has described people with AS who wear clothing that is not typical for the season as appearing to have "... an idiosyncratic internal thermostat." (Attwood 2007).

During his teenage years Barrett constructed (beautifully) some tetrahedrons from balsa wood, which he hung from the ceiling of his room. This precise and geometrical teenage craft creativity is interestingly similar to one childhood hobby of Prof. Richard Borcherds, winner of a Fields Medal for mathematics, who was identified by autism expert Prof. Baron-Cohen as a person who had AS but was not dysfunctional enough to meet the official diagnostic criteria for AS (Baron-Cohen 2003). In his school years Borcherds had constructed hundreds of unique polyhedra which he hung from ceilings throughout his parents' house (Baron-Cohen 2003 p. 161-162). A tetrahedron is a type of polyhedron. Professor Baron-Cohen would probably classify this hobby of polyhedron construction as an example of systemizing behaviour. Baron-Cohen has argued that autistic people are hyper-systemizers. This hobby is precise and mathematical, and there is an element of experimentation, because one explores the relationship between two-dimensional shapes and three-dimensional shapes. Decades later in 1996 Barrett's nephew revealed in an interview that Barrett was exploring geometric and repetitive patterns similar to tiles or weaving in his painting (Willis 2002 p. 144) (interview also available online at Dolly Rocker), a continuation of an artistic theme explored in his youth.

Barrett's polyhedra and geometric painting were not the only examples of systemizing behaviour that Barrett displayed. His experimentation and innovation with musical sound effects was also a form of systemizing. Barrett got novel sounds out of his guitar using ball bearings and a cigarette lighter. His music often featured sounds played backwards. He recorded the sound of a motorbike with the intention of using it in music, and I recall reading about Barrett experimenting with the sound of a clock ticking under water. Barrett was reportedly a pioneer in using a gadget called the Binson Echorette to produce echo effects with his guitar (Watkinson & Anderson 2006 p. 50). One might think that songwriting is a purely creative activity for which there can be no system or set rules, but Barrett's ingenious songwriting system ("structure") is described in Willis's biography. Barrett displayed a more conventional systemizing talent at the age of 15 by building his own amplifier. Systemizers love gadgets, and Barrett was no exception. The biography by Watkinson and Anderson details Barrett's extravagant fascinations with collecting guitars and state-of-the-art television sets during the 1970s. Chapmans’s book Syd Barrett: a very irregular head gives a hint that Barrett might have had the long attention-span that is characteristic of autism – when he visited great art galleries with his girlfriend “he would sit for hours looking at one painting” rather than hang out with interesting people in the cafeteria (Chapman 2010 p. 44). While a lack of verbal ability is not a part of Barrett’s popular image, some accounts hint that he had some problems with verbal expression. Barrett’s nephew Ian Barrett described his uncle taking a long time to describe things in a very precise way (Chapman 2010 p. 366), a trait which apparently runs in the family. Barrett’s sister Rosemary theorized in the same book that because Barrett lived such a solitary life during his later years with no one to speak to, he got out of the habit of speaking and lost verbal ability (Chapman 2010 p. 377).

Reading books about Barrett, one could easily get the impression that his youth was just one big party, but Mark Blake's book about Pink Floyd gives descriptions from two different sources of Barrett's habit of disappearing from or avoiding social occasions which he was expected to attend, without any explanation. He would sometimes bore his girlfriend by taking her for drives to look at landscapes rather than going to parties as planned. Another friend has described how Barrett could "... suddenly withdraw from everything" despite having a great sense of humour (Blake 2007 p. 30). This type of behaviour is consistent with Asperger syndrome. According to some sources quoted by Blake there was also a distance between Barrett and his band-mates, one source saying he thought Barrett was an outsider within Pink Floyd (Blake 2007 p. 78). This is supported by quotes from the biography by Watkinson and Anderson "There was no togetherness because they were always backing musicians to Syd and not a group." (p. 89). In light of this revelation, one does not need to believe in the myth that Barrett was insane to find an explanation for why the other members of Pink Floyd might have wanted to exclude him from their musical group. In Blake's book one can find an anecdote about Barrett refusing, without explanation, to board a bus with other students for an art school excursion (p.25). Asperger syndrome could also explain this behaviour. The noise, smell and crowding of buses and public transport can be a real challenge for autistic people who have sensory hypersensitivity. Further support for the argument that Barrett had difficulty dealing with gatherings of people can be found in the Willis biography and in the interview with Barrett's nephew which can be viewed at the web site Dolly Rocker. It is asserted that Barrett had avoided houseguests by staying in a basement during the 1970s and in the 1990s was still "unable to cope with large gatherings". Rob Chapman’s 2010 book about Barrett gives a complex account of Barrett in social life. One source claiming Barrett was independent socially, getting around but not settling with any particular group. Another source gives an account of Barrett as very choosey about his friends and untrusting, but not without friends. Another source described Barrett as kind, generous and sensitive but also in a world of his own.

Some features of Barrett's behaviour relevant to communication have been cited as evidence of mental illness. These include being verbally uncommunicative, a stare that frightened people and a lack of facial expression; "Trying to talk to him was like trying to talk to a brick wall because his face was so expressionless." (Willis 2002 p. 77). It has also been observed that Barrett's style of communication was of making statements rather than normal conversation, and was strange and fragmented (Willis 2002). A lack of eye contact in noted on page 163 of the Watkinson and Anderson biography. All of these characteristics can be found in people who are autistic. If a person's body language changes, becoming less expressive than before, this could be a sign of mental illness. It could also be the result of an autistic person deciding to stop "acting normal".

There is another characteristic of Barrett's that could be found from his childhood to adulthood that I believe is typical of an autistic personality. Barrett had a great attachment to his home. He has been described as a recluse in his later years, but homebody tendencies were evident as early as his school years, when he would disappear from cross-country running to create paintings at home, and his home's back garden was also his preferred venue for painting during his art school years. There is an anecdote about Barrett walking to Cambridge (his home town) from London, and one friend of Barrett's believed he was out of his comfort zone whenever he was outside of Cambridge. One's home is (or at least should be) a place that offers security, quiet, privacy and protection from unwanted interruptions and intrusions, and these are things that many autistic people have a special need for. Homes and home towns are also places where we can reconnect with memories that reinforce our sense of personal identity, and this can be a comforting thing in a hostile and chaotic world. Some of the most ugly anecdotes about Barrett's behaviour, times when he was clearly very troubled or violent, happened when he was using drugs and also sharing accommodation with a number of other people.

Although media reports almost always describe Barrett as a case of mental illness, his sister claimed he was never mentally ill, but never fitted the norm either. According to Rosemary he spent some time in an institution (but was given no treatment), and was assessed a number of times by psychiatrists over the years and was found to be unusual but not insane (Titchmarsh 2007). Being labelled as mad by ordinary people but pronounced sane by qualified psychiatrists is an experience reported by some adults who have Asperger syndrome. Rosemary quoted in Chapman’s 2010 book about Barrett claimed that “personality disorder” was a label that was given to Barrett after his stay in an institution (Chapman 2010 p. 361). This is the type of label that was given to some autistic adults before Asperger syndrome was recognized.

A lot of evidence can be found to support the autism explanation, but there are some elements of Barrett's life story that could be seen as incompatible with this explanation. I have found anecdotes in which Barrett compared his own social status with that of John Lennon, whose career was more established. This seems very contrary to the lack of concern for social status that is thought to be typical of autists. One could instead interpret Barrett's comparisons as evidence of role model copying, which is a rather desperate strategy used by some autists to deal with the social side of life. As a child Barrett has been described as an extroverted, gregarious joker. He did well in the Boy Scouts, rising to the level of Patrol Leader. Young Roger/Syd excelled in public speaking, poetry reading and played the lead in school plays (Miles 2006). He avoided potential trouble with teachers with smiles and jokes (Miles 2006). This level of ability in social manipulation and personal presentation does not fit the established image of the socially disabled autist. But in contrast, Barrett has also been described as having "... a child-like innocence." (Manning & Dodd 2006 p. 10). Despite his apparent social skills, Barrett was not the perfect child. Despite obvious intelligence his academic achievement in junior school was mediocre, and he was regarded as rebellious student at school and also as a college art student. By all accounts Barrett had a very bad temper. In childhood he was known to break windows and throw rocks at cars when things did not go the way he wanted (Miles 2006). According to an account in Willis' biography, Syd/Roger did not throw rocks alone, so this behaviour could be a reflection of a lack of adult supervision. It is interesting to note that a neighbour of Barrett's during his reclusive years complained that Barrett had a habit of smashing (his own) windows (Sore 2006), so this appears to have been another one of Barrett's almost life-long strange habits. Windows aren't the only parts of homes that Barrett has attacked. In the 1970s he smashed the door of his flat off its hinges, and put his head through a ceiling after a bad review of his last concert. Barrett's life-long capacity for intense anger could be consistent with a condition on the autistic spectrum or possibly epilepsy of the temporal lobes. There is a most striking photograph of Barrett in Blake's book about Pink Floyd. It shows Barrett being "doorstepped" in 2006, wearing minimal clothing, and the look in his dark eyes would have made me step backwards a metre or two. There are many photographs of Barrett from his Pink Floyd years showing eyes that have the most striking expression, perhaps terror, over-stimulation or shell-shock. A Rolling Stone reporter described Barrett's "eyes reflecting a permanent state of shock." (Watkinson & Anderson 2006).

During his teens and early twenties Barrett was involved with a number of girlfriends and affairs (Willis 2002). In addition to these relationships, there was no shortage of groupies hanging around after he became famous. Barrett was very popular with the ladies from his mid-teens till his withdrawal from public life, but it could be a mistake take this as evidence that he had the "social skills" of a normal non-autistic person before his decline. Barrett's good looks, fame and creative intelligence were most likely important elements of his charisma. Surprisingly, one woman who had enjoyed Barrett's company claimed in an interview that Barrett "... wasn't the sort of guy to flirt." (Blake 2007 p. 122). Barrett was a very attentive boyfriend in one of his earlier relationships, but he appeared to place little value on later relationships. He has a deplorable record of smashing up buildings and violence towards girlfriends. There is a theory that autism is an extremely masculinised type of brain. If Barrett was autistic and this theory true, this would mean Barrett would have had very little in common psychologically with the average female, an even greater gulf between him and most women that that between average men and women. This might be the explanation for why Barrett's romantic relationships apparently came to nothing. According to one author, after Barrett broke up with a girl that he had been engaged to, in 1970, there were no more known intimate relationships. Biographers Watkinson and Anderson wrote that one fan of Barrett's who collected Barrett memorabilia was of the opinion that Barrett had at one time had a girlfriend in a relationship that was kept a secret from his family and the media. When speculating about the motivations behind Barrett's choices of lifestyle and behaviour I try to keep in mind the fact that Barrett's finances and contact with the world in general were controlled by his family to a degree that is not clear to me.

Barrett was too adventurous in his use of drugs, and he also showed a taste for adventure in creating his own personal style. He wore black eyeliner during his rock star years and had his hair permed, and wore psychedelic style fashions in fine style. He was the most visually appealing, photogenic and interestingly dressed member of Pink Floyd. I think Barrett's seductive stares at the camera resembled the poses of female fashion models. It appears that Barrett cared little for our culture's disapproval of men making a display of their personal appearance. There are reports of Barrett being spotted cross-dressing. This has been interpreted by some as evidence of mental illness, but I don't think there's such a large difference between wearing drag and wearing the type of gear that Barrett wore as a band member in photo shoots. Barrett's cross-dressing makes one wonder about the theme of Pink Floyd's first single Arnold Layne. This song, written by Barrett, is about a transvestite who stole women's clothing from washing lines. It is based on real-life incidents of theft of underwear, which apparently belonged to female student lodgers staying at the homes of Barrett's and Roger Waters' families. One of the people interviewed in the documentary The Pink Floyd and Syd Barrett Story claimed to know the identity of this underwear thief. Who would do such a thing?
Barrett's fashion-consciousness in his rock star years goes against the stereotype of the geeky, fashion-blind autistic person, and this could be interpreted as evidence that Barrett was not autistic. One could give a counter-argument that Barrett was violating gender norms and distinguishing himself from his peers with his fashion. Autistic people are sometimes conspicuous because they do not adopt fashions typical of members of their gender in their peer group. This can happen because autists often care little about fitting in.

Barrett's sister and biographer Tim Willis have described Barrett as a synaesthete or possible synaesthete "... he would say that a sound was a colour to him." (Titchmarsh 2007). A report that Barrett described (to Rado Klose, an early Pink Floyd member) a C chord as yellow is given in the biography by Willis (page 21). Much later in Barrett's career, during the recording of his first solo album, one of Barrett's comments about the music provides further evidence of synaesthesia; "Perhaps we could make the middle darker and maybe the end a bit more middle-afternoonish [because] at the moment, it's too windy and icy" (Willis 2002 p. 106). Willis wrote that Barrett "drew" songs (Willis 2002 p.21), representations that could have been based on synaesthesia experiences. Barry Miles' book about Pink Floyd gives slightly fuller descriptions of Barrett's visual representations of his songs, in coloured paintings (page 69) and drawings that resembled Venn diagrams (page 83). It would be fascinating to see these creations, if they still exist today. Some types of synaesthesia can be caused by high doses of LSD, so one could dismiss Barrett's synaesthesia as merely the side-effects of psychedelic drugs. My guess is that the way that Barrett apparently used his synaesthesia to represent and describe his music shows that his synaesthesia was a more complex, stable and natural type of synaesthesia. One would need to find evidence that Barrett experienced synaesthesia early in life, before he started taking drugs, before we could categorize him as a natural synaesthete.

As an art school student Barrett had a very well developed sense of colour (Chapman 2010 p.50). One study had found that synaesthetes have an enhanced memory for colour (Yaro and Ward 2007). In his 2010 book Chapman asserted that the imagery in the song Astronomy Dominie by Barrett “conveys a strong sense of synaesthesia” (Chapman 2010 p.156).

Barrett's synaesthesia was not just an isolated personal oddity. Synaesthesia-like experiences were a part of the psychedelic scene which Barrett and Pink Floyd were a part of at the time. People were inventing various devices and systems of stage lighting for the types of venues that Pink Floyd played in, some of them designed to move in time with music. One 1967 concert by Pink Floyd was given the title "Music in Colour". Researchers have reportedly found a possible genetic link between synaesthesia, autism and epilepsy (Robson 2009). It is possible that Barrett had some combination of these conditions. As far as I know, no link has ever been found between synaesthesia and schizophrenia, so evidence of synaesthesia contributes nothing to the case that Barrett was a schizophrenic.

I find it interesting that quite a few of the writers who have been identified as influences on Barrett's song-writing were major figures in children's literature and were themselves unusual people. Lewis Carroll was one of the best known writers in the genre of literary nonsense. He had migraines and epilepsy (possibly temporal lobe epilepsy), an inherited stutter, was a mathematician and never married. Carroll was identified as having had Asperger syndrome in the book The genesis of artistic creativity: Asperger’s syndrome and the arts. Edward Lear was another major writer of literary nonsense. He was also a gifted painter and an epileptic who suffered from depressive episodes. Lear never married. Pink Floyd's first album was named after a chapter of the classic children's book The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame, and this book has been cited as an important influence on Barrett's work. Grahame was an intelligent and eccentric loner who married late in life to another eccentric. Syd Barrett wrote a song Golden Hair based on a poem by James Joyce. Joyce was one of the famous people discussed in the book Unstoppable brilliance: Irish geniuses and Asperger's syndrome.

The world of childhood is an innocent and beautiful world that has a great attraction for many people who have Asperger syndrome. Even though he was not a father, in many ways Barrett was well-connected to the world of childhood - through his strong attachment to Cambridge where he grew up, his personality has been described as childlike, his artistic inspiration from children's literature, and his love of children in contrast with a very reclusive lifestyle. Barrett's sister Rosemary has described Barrett's rapport with children in 2006 in a Sunday Times interview with Tim Willis. The legendary mathematician Paul Erdos and writer/mathematician Lewis Carroll are two famous geniuses who have both been identified as autistic by Prof. Michael Fitzgerald (Fitzgerald 2007, Fitzgerald 2005), who were both single and possibly asexual, and who both demonstrated a love of children and an enjoyment of the company children.

One last detail of Barrett's life that I believe indicates autism is Barrett's evident lack of interest in popular team sport events. All men love to watch the footy, don't they? Autistic people are often the exception to this rule. Autists don't need the crowding and the camaraderie involved with being a sport player or spectator. I believe slow attention-shifting means autistic people are likely to have trouble following the fast-paced action of team sport. Watkinson and Anderson describe in their biography observing Barrett making a visit to a DIY/hardware shop by foot, walking through the deserted streets during FA Cup Final day with an unnatural spring in his step.

I believe Barrett was somewhere on the autistic spectrum because there is such a large quantity of evidence for this conclusion, even though some aspects of his life could be interpreted as evidence against this conclusion. Similarities can be found between Barrett's experiences in Pink Floyd and the career of Australian rock star Craig Nicholls of The Vines, who was given a formal diagnosis of Asperger syndrome in 2004. History repeats. I am not convinced that drugs and autism were the only factors that caused the end of Barrett's musical career. I agree with Willis and many Barrett fans who believe that Barrett chose to leave the music business following years of good and bad experiences, to return to his painting. We can be sure that Barrett experienced coloured music synaesthesia, and very likely other types of synaesthesia. I have been able to find stacks of evidence for Barrett's autism and synaesthesia scattered through many books and articles about Barrett and Pink Floyd, even though most of the authors of these works did not explicitly argue that Barrett had these conditions. In contrast, I have been unable to find any evidence to support the idea that Barrett had schizophrenia while reading these same books and articles, even though most of the authors of these works were of the opinion that Barrett had been mentally ill. Barrett certainly did act in crazy and non-functional ways during one period in his life - this is what happens when people take mind-bending drugs.

The famous painter Vincent van Gogh is another famous person who I believe had a number of features in common with Barrett. Both men were painters who displayed an original creativity. Both have been identified as possible cases of autism. Both experienced synaesthesia. Both have been given the label of "schizophrenic". Both had limited luck with romantic relationships. Both had a capacity for unusual levels of anger. Some believe van Gogh's angry outbursts were caused by temporal lobe epilepsy. Both have been the subject of many different theories about the exact nature of their mental conditions.

Barrett's story has often been presented as a cautionary tale to warn against the abuse of drugs. Could his story have been a happier one if different choices had been made? We now know that heavy use of cannabis can damage the brain, and in some people can trigger mental illness, so things might have been different if Barrett had stayed clear of this drug. But it is possible that being an autist in a world that does not accept nor understand autistic people was Barrett's biggest problem, and there would have been no useful advice about how to deal with this, nor any effective support available to Barrett in his teens or twenties, if he had sought it? He was facing the biggest challenges in his life during a time when the psychiatric profession's responses to autism included institutionalisation, misdiagnosis as schizophrenia (with a number of possibly seriously harmful consequences), baseless mother-blaming theories, useless and expensive psychotherapy, and LSD was even used by some psychiatrists as an experimental therapy for autistic children. Barrett could hardly be blamed for taking acid and dropping out, considering the crazy times he lived in. The famous psychiatrist that Pink Floyd members tried to get Barrett to see in a consultation, R. D. Laing, turned out to be a sufferer of depression and alcoholism, whose work is no longer an influence on mainstream psychiatry.

Roger/Syd Barrett played a number of different roles in his life - a wild and creative beautiful boy, the enigmatic wanderer who was the subject of rumours and local legends, and a wonderfully scary-looking chain-smoking millionaire recluse. He proved that one doesn't need to die young, or die at all, to attain legendary status. Now that he is gone, many questions about his life will remain forever unanswered. Don't you love a mystery?

Some Syd Barrett Quotes

I'm sorry I can't speak very coherently.

I don't think I'm easy to talk about. I've got a very irregular head. And I'm not anything that you think I am anyway.

It's always been too slow for me. Playing. The pace of things. I'm a fast sprinter. The trouble was, after playing in the group for a few months, I couldn't reach that point.

I'm disappearing, avoiding most things.

I think young people should have a lot of fun. But I never seem to have any.

I wasn't always this introverted.

I'm full of dust and guitars.

I'm treading the backward path. Mostly, I just waste my time.

Have you seen the roses? There's a whole lot of colours.
From BrainyQuote

About Syd Barrett/Roger Barrett (and Pink Floyd)

AtomicSpiderProductions (2000) Set The Controls Interviews Ian Barrett. Dolly Rocker. (tribute web site).
[interview done in 1996?]

Blake, Mark (2007) Pigs might fly: the inside story of Pink Floyd. Aurum Press, 2007.
[a substantial book]
Chapman, Rob (2010) Syd Barrett: a very irregular head. Faber and Faber, 2010.
Gallo, Phil (2006) Reclusive Floyd founder Barrett dies. Variety. July 11th 2006.

Geiger, John (2006) The mystery of Syd. National Post. July 12th 2006.

Kent, Nick (1974) The cracked ballad of Syd Barrett. New Musical Express. April 13th 1974.

Manning, Toby & Dodd, Philip (2006) The Rough Guide to Pink Floyd. Rough Guides, 2006.

Miles, Barry (2006) Pink Floyd: the early years. Omnibus Press, 2006.
[The author appears to subscribe to the theory that Barrett had schizophrenia. Barrett's visual representations of songs described on pages 69 and 83 were possibly records of musical synaesthesia.]
Pareles, Jon (2006) Syd Barrett, a Founder of Pink Floyd, Dies at 60. New York Times. July 12th 2006.

Pink Floyd legend Syd Barrett 'never wanted fame'. (2008) NME. August 27th 2008.
[Barrett's sister Rosemary interviewed]
Rolling Stone (1971) The madcap who named Pink Floyd. Rolling Stone.

Sore, David (2006) The genius next door. Mail on Sunday. December 3rd 2006.
[I have not checked any complete online or hardcopy publication of this article from a British tabloid newspaper. I have only read republications and reviews of it online, and part of it available through a business article seller. I could find no trace of the article through searching Mail Online. It appears to be an unsympathetic account of Barrett's reclusive years by someone who claimed to have been his neighbour for many years.]
Titchmarsh, Ben (2007?) Rosemary shares memories of her brother and her hopes for ‘The City Wakes’. The City Wakes (web site).
[Synaesthesia is mentioned in this interview with Barrett's sister.]
Watkinson, Mike & Anderson, Pete (2006) Crazy diamond: Syd Barrett & the dawn of Pink Floyd. Omnibus Press, 2006.
[The authors subscribe to the theory that Barrett had schizophrenia. Parts of the 2001 edition of this book can be read at Google Book Search]
Wikipedia contributors (accessed 2009) Syd Barrett. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.
Willis, Tim (2006) My lovably ordinary brother Syd. Sunday Times. Timesonline July 16th 2006.
[autism and synaesthesia mentioned]
Willis, Tim (2002) Madcap : the half-life of Syd Barrett, Pink Floyd's lost genius. Short Books, 2002.
[A short book but an enjoyable read, Asperger syndrome and synaesthesia mentioned, a report by Barrett of an experience of synaesthesia is described on page 21, and more evidence of synesthesia in a quote on page 106]

Willis, Tim (2002) You shone like the sun. Observer. October 6th 2002.

Willis, Tim (2002) Extracts from the Book "Madcap - the half-life of Syd Barrett, Pink Floyd's lost Genius". Dolly Rocker (tribute web site).

Other References

Asher, J. Lamb, J. Brocklebank, D. Cazier, J. Maestrini, E. Addis, L. Sen, M. Baron-Cohen, S. & Monaco, A. (2009) A Whole-Genome Scan and Fine-Mapping Linkage Study of Auditory-Visual Synesthesia Reveals Evidence of Linkage to Chromosomes 2q24, 5q33, 6p12, and 12p12. American Journal of Human Genetics. Vol. 84, issue 2, 13 February 2009, p. 279-285. [a recent genetic study that sometimes incorrectly refers to synaesthesia as a disorder. Quote from paper: "The marker obtaining the highest LOD score (D2S142, with HLOD = 3.025) has been linked to autism."]

Attwood, Tony (2007) The complete guide to Asperger's syndrome. Jessica Kingsley, 2007.

Baron-Cohen, Simon (2003) The essential difference. Penguin Books.

Fitzgerald, Michael, and O’Brien, Brendan (2007) Genius genes: how Asperger talents changed the world. Autism Asperger Publishing Company, 2007.

Fitzgerald, Michael (2005) The genesis of artistic creativity: Asperger’s syndrome and the arts. Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
[Gaudi, Hopper, Quine, Wittgenstein, Maxwell, Swift, H. Christian Andersen, Melville, Carroll, W. B. Yeats, Conan Doyle, Orwell, Chatwin, Spinoza, Kant, Weil, A. J. Ayer, Mozart, Beethoven, Satie, Bartok, Gould, van Gogh, J. B. Yeats, L.S. Lowry, Warhol]
Hoffman, Paul (1998) The man who loved only numbers: the story of Paul Erdos and the search for mathematical truth. Fourth Estate, 1998.
[An enjoyable and recommended book. The title is somewhat misleading - Erdos was unmarried but he did love children and was friendly and compassionate (see p. 9)]
Robson, David (2009) Genetic roots of synaesthesia unearthed. New Scientist. February 5th 2009.

Run on tiptoe like your ancestors. New Scientist. January 30th 2010. p.15.

Walker, Antionette and Fitzgerald, Michael (2006) Unstoppable brilliance: Irish geniuses and Asperger’s syndrome. Liberties Press. 2006.

Yaro C, Ward J. (2007) “Searching for Shereshevskii: what is superior about the memory of synaesthetes?” Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 60(5):681-695.

Copyright Lili Marlene 2009, 2010.

Lili Marlene has written ebooks about some other famous synaesthetes! These ebooks can be downloaded from Smashwords. Here is a link to Lili's author page at Smashwords:
Carl Sagan Day 2009

Today the memorable scientist, astronomer, humanist and popularizer of science Carl Sagan would have turned 75. Carl Sagan is one of the 140 famous people who are currently listed in my massive referenced list of famous people who are/were or could be/have been on the autism spectrum. Carl Sagan is one of the famous people written about in the 2002 book Asperger’s and self-esteem: insight and hope through famous role models by Norm Ledgin.

Carl Sagan Day

A referenced list of 140 famous or important people diagnosed with an autism spectrum condition or subject of published speculation about whether they are or were on the autistic spectrum

Friday, November 06, 2009

Defeating autism: a damaging delusion by Michael Fitzpatrick - what a top read!

I've just been reading Defeating autism: a damaging delusion by Michael Fitzpatrick, published by Routledge. I'm surprised that such a wise and well-researched book has been released for quite a while and I've noticed virtually no promotion of this book. Maybe it's just me.

This book is basically a critical history of the diverse movement of people who believe in environmental causes of and "biomedical treatments" for autism, written from the point of view of a British general practitioner who's son was given an autism diagnosis in 1994. Dr Fitzpatrick has been there and done that, and is able to admit that many of the things that they tried had no discernable effect (or were harmful).

The author has certainly read widely about the many controversies in the world of autism, discussing or quoting from experts, book authors, internet commentators, fifth-rate scientists and quacks from all sides of the autism battleground - Kanner, Bettelheim, Shattock, Rimland, Baron-Cohen, McCarthy, Maurice, the Geiers, Kirby, Wakefield, Seidel, Grinker, Offit, Leitch, Klein and "Ventura 33".

Here are two of my favourite quotes from the book:

"The autistic child has become the symbolic point of convergence of two major currents of contemporary anxiety: anxiety about early childhood development and anxiety about impending environmental disaster." (page 15)

"Jenny McCarthy provides a first-person account which is all about one person - herself - and everybody else, including Evan, has only a walk-on part." (page 45)

If you are a parent of an autistic child this is one book that you should read and own, just so that you know who is who and how things got to be this crazy, and this book might prevent you from wasting a lot of time and money on other books, and quackery, that are no use to anyone. If you work with autistic people of any age, buy this book and read it and claim the cost on your tax. If you are one of the fighters in the many political battles over autism, I'm sure you'd want to own this book.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Gilbert and George - I like their style

Did you see that documentary about the British artists Gilbert and George that was recently screened on the ABC? They are two strange ducks for sure, and I found the things that they had to say about politics in the UK art world to be quite interesting.

I thought there was something just a little bit peculiar about their body language and personal presentation and their lifestyles. The way they don't have a kitchen in their house and don't cook, because for them it is time wasting. I've read that their restaurant-visiting habits are extremely unchanging and precise. The way they always seem to wear near-identical formal attire, and like to walk together in synchronized steps, like they are members of a highly regimented organization that has a membership that is strictly limited to two men. The way they talk in a matter-of-fact way about subjects that would make many people blanch. The lack of facial and bodily expression. The interesting collections. The careful, detailed and technical system that they have formulated for producing their art. Their committment to renovating a historic building and to making art that presumably entails staying interested in the same things for years and years. Their attention to detail.

Gilbert and George reminded me of Stanley Kubrick in the way they take a huge number of photographs in preparation for a new series of art works. The style of their art reminded me of Andy Warhol and Pop Art. The way they complained about being persecuted by a leftist art establishment reminded by of the Australian poet Les Murray. Their robotic look reminded me of Kraftwerk. Kubrick and Warhol have been identifed posthumously as autistic. Murray has identifed himself as autistic. There has been speculation about some members of Kraftwerk and autism. Have Gilbert and George been turning their autism into living art for the last few decades?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Items about Jill Price, AKA AJ, the woman who can't forget, first known case of hyperthymestic syndrome and also a case of time-space synaesthesia

(this post added to in 2012)

Ashbrook, Tom (2008) The perfect memory. On Point. May 20th 2008.
[radio show]

Berg, Tom (2008) Remembering every day of your life. The Orange County Register. April 25th 2008: Life Section.

CBS News (2010) The Gift of Endless Memory. 60 Minutes (US). December 19, 2010. interviewer Lesley Stahl, producer Shari Finkelstein.
[Jill Price only mentioned in this feature story in which the original term “hyperthymestic syndrome” has been replaced with the term “superior autobiographical memory”. Actress Marilu Henner identified as a case and one of the same researchers who studied Price, Dr James McGaugh, is interviewed by Lesley Stahl, with information about research findings about which parts of the brain give rise to this cognitive gift. Other people mentioned or interviewed in this story include: Brad Williams, Rick Baron, Bob Petrella and Dr Larry Cahill]

Conan, Neal (2008) Blessed and cursed by an extraordinary memory. NPR. May 19th 2008.
[radio show and excerpt from Price's autobiography, transcript of radio show available]

Elias, Marilyn (2009) MRIs reveal possible source of woman's super-memory. USA Today. January 28th 2009.

Elias, Marilyn (2008) Decades of details flood woman with unmatched memory. USA Today. 27th May 2008.

Foer, Joshua (2009) Remember this. National Geographic. November 2007. p. 32-55.
[a substantial article]

Galton, Francis (1883) Inquiries into human faculty and its development.
[obviously this book does not mention Jill Price, but number-form synaesthesia like that described by Price is described on pages 80-103]

Gill, Victoria (2009) Can you see time? BBC News. September 11th 2009.
[A good article about synaesthesia in which Dr Julia Simner is interviewed and discusses the link between time-space synaesthesia and hyperthymestic syndrome]

Gray, Keturah and Escherich, Katie (2008) Woman who can't forget amazes doctors. ABC News. May 9th 2008.
[brain scans mentioned]

Leve, Ariel (2008) Jill Price, the woman who remembers everything. Sunday Times. September 21st 2008.

Marcus, Gary (2009) Total recall: the woman who can't forget. Wired. Issue number 17.04 April 2009, article dated 23rd March 2009.
[A sample of Price's unusual handwriting can be seen in this article, which includes a window to a video clip of Price being interviewed from YouTube]

Marshall, Jessica (2008) Unforgettable. New Scientist. Issue 2643
February 16th 2008. p.30-33. Online article title: Forgetfulness is key to a healthy mind.

[Price is “AJ” in this interesting article, which is about her, Brad Williams and the condition that they share, hyperthymestic syndrome. AJ’s ability to identify the day of the week for dates long past is noted, a clever trick that many savants can also perform. Researchers discussed in this article include McGaugh, Parker and Cahill who first described her, Daniel Schacter, Michael Anderson and K. Anders Ericsson. I can’t take any of these researchers too seriously, because it appears that none of them noticed that AJ is a synaesthete.]

Parker, Elizabeth S., Cahill, Larry, & McGaugh, James L. (2006) A case of unusual autobiographical remembering. Neurocase. Volume 12 Issue 1 February 2006. p. 35 – 49.
[sequence-space synaesthesia described on page 42]

Phillips, Graham (2009) Unforgettable memories. Catalyst. ABC Television. March 19th 2009.
[Jill Price on Australian TV]

Price, Jill & Davis, Bart (2008) The woman who can't forget: the extraordinary story of living with the most remarkable memory known to science - a memoir. Free Press, May 2008.
[time-space synesthesia described on pages 30-31]

Simner, Julia (2009) Synaesthetic visuo-spatial forms: Viewing sequences in space. Cortex. volume 45, issue 10, November-December 2009, Pages 1138-1147.
[an editorial]

Simner, Julia, Mayo, Neil, Spiller, Mary-Jane (2009) A foundation for savantism? Visuo-spatial synaesthetes present with cognitive benefits. Cortex. Volume 45, issue 10, November-December 2009, Pages 1246-1260.
["AJ" discussed in this paper. Other papers and an editorial about this type of synaesthesia can also be found in this journal issue.] (2008) The woman who can remember everything. May 9th 2008.
[characteristics of other people with hyperthymestic syndrome mentioned]

UCI scientists study people who can't forget [press release] Today@UCI. 9th May 2008.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

It's on for young and old at Wired!

I see that Wired magazine has a number of stories running that appear to be critical of the crowd who argue that vaccinations cause autism, so it's on for young and old in the comments sections of some online Wired magazine articles. So much hot air! It's such a pity that so many people on both sides of this debate have to waste so much time over a dispute that only has one rational side.
List of famous synaesthetes updated

I've just added a number of things to my fully referenced list of famous synaesthetes. I've added more information and references regarding the enigmatic Syd Barrett / Roger Barrett, and I've also added more information and references regarding Jill Price - the woman who can't forget. A second journal paper has been published about the obscure but interesting subject of hyperthymestic syndrome (or hyperthymesia), so I've had to add to the section about Price.

Lili Marlene's list of famous synaesthetes or possible synesthetes

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Visuo-spatial synaesthesia

Did you know there's a special section on synaesthesia and visuo-spatial forms (number form synesthesia) in the current issue of the journal Cortex? If you are among of the 12% of people who consistently think of the months of the year arranged in a never-ending oval shaped cycle, or who involuntarily visualize the days of the week in a rising line from right to left, abruptly dropping down at the weekend, you might find this issue of a scientific journal interesting.

Friday, October 16, 2009

An Aspergian Quiz

1. Which famous person who has been identified as "an aspie" has written a book which appears to be autobiography but which includes a disclaimer claiming it is a work of fiction based on real events, and which is a major source of material for the latest installment on the infamous Australian TV series Underbelly?

2. Name two famous people who have both been identified as autistic and also both have eyes of different colours.

3. Give the title of an autobiography written by a Nobel Prize winner who has Asperger syndrome.

4. Name two infamous rock stars who have been identified as autistic and who have both made memorably wild appearances on Dave Letterman's Late Show.

5. Which famous person with Asperger syndrome openly enjoys cross-dressing?

6. Which famous person with Asperger syndrome has been appreciated by an army of fans who called themselves "Numanoids"?

7. Which famous person who has self-identified as a possible case of Asperger syndrome was at the centre of a controversy in the mid-1990s that painfully exposed the multicultural pretentions of the Australian literary establishment?

8. Name a famous person who is reportedly diagnosed with Asperger syndrome who can speak 11 languages.

9. Which famous person identified as a possible case of Asperger syndrome triggered an international controversy and a lot of educated discussion with a speech delivered at a conference in 2005?

10. Which famous person who has self-identified as a "mild" case of autism wrote a poem about autism that was recently featured as the Poem of the Week by the Times Literary Supplement?

11. Name a Prime Minister and a former Deputy Prime Minister who have both been referred to as autistic.

12. Which famous person self-identified as having Asperger syndrome learned to read with computer programming commands?

13. Which famous person identified as a possible case of Asperger syndrome has also been identifed as one of the first authors to fully incorporate Asperger syndrome into the heart of a novel, many years before the publication of The curious incident of the dog in the night-time by Mark Haddon?

14. Name the novel referred to in question 13.

The answers can be found here, but some may require some additional web surfing to verify:

Thursday, October 15, 2009

I'm not dead and I haven't given up this blogging caper, I've just been to busy doing the mother and housewife thing. It's boring, I know.

The other day I was looking into free activities for young kids that our local city council provides to us good ratepaying working families. I saw something that I thought might be fun for one of our young ones, except that this free kids' activity session included an element of vigorous exercise, presumably with the aim of preventing or curing the much-hyped epidemic of childhood obesity. This is the last thing that our youngest needs. My gene for childhood hyperactivity has certainly not been wasted. You know your child is genuinely very active when they often complain of aching legs after particularly busy days. I think it's funny that this child of ours is probably very much in vogue this year, because these days everyone is supposed to be getting children to be more active than they otherwise might have been, and obesity and lack of fitness are some childhood disorders that are now most fashionable things to hate. Active children are "in" this year and children who like to stay put for long periods of time are "out" this year. But I cast my mind back to the time when I had my first very active young child. I felt most defensive. Back then it was definitely not the desired look to have a child who is a blur of hyper-excitable haste. That time was the tail-end of ADHD mania. When fashionable young mums get together to chat these days they might swap tales about their son's speech therapist or OT, but back then the chatter was often about which foods or drinks or chemical substances were thought to trigger manic and unmanageable behaviour in our troublesome offspring, usually sons. So I'd like to congratulate all of those mums and dads, child health nurses, parent educators, natural therapists, doctors, prescribing paediatricians, parenting experts and inferfering grandparents who set their minds to curing the terrible epidemic of childhood hyperactivity back in the 1980s, the 1990s and earlier decades. You did well, rather too well. Be careful what you wish for.

Clever, Creative, Controversial .....

Clever, Creative, Controversial: A referenced list of 37 famous living people who have been identified in any way as autistic, to any degree, during any period of their life, including famous people diagnosed with Asperger syndrome (AS)

List altered June 2012

The inclusion of every name into this list is supported by at least one document or audio-visual item cited in the references section.

This list is a subset of a larger list that can be found here:

Dan Aykroyd CM (b. 1952, Canadian-American film actor, comedian, singer and screenwriter, one of the famous Blues Brothers, an original cast member of the Saturday Night Live TV show, was made a Member of the Order of Canada in 2000. In a somewhat confusing radio interview Aykroyd claimed to have been diagnosed as a child with Asperger and Tourette syndromes, and schizophrenia was also mentioned (in those days autism was sometimes erroneously described as “childhood schizophrenia”, and this may have confused the issue), his autistic special interest is law enforcement, which may have been an influence on Aykroyd’s screenplay of The Blues Brothers. Aykroyd was born with syndactyly (webbed toes) and like another person in this list, has eyes of different colours (heterochromia). Aykroyd is a spiritualist with a family tradition of spiritualism, and also has a strong interest in UFOs. L-H, M)

David Bellamy OBE (b. 1933, English botanist, broadcaster, environmentalist and author, outspoken, has held positions such as professor, president and vice-president within many organizations, won a BAFTA Richard Dimbleby Award for television in 1978, possibly best known as the extremely enthusiastic host of nature documentaries such as Botanic Man screened in the 1970s. Bellamy's views on global warming have caused some controversy in recent years. David Bellamy has claimed to have “some special sort of autism” in an autobiography. As a child he enjoyed reading Encyclopaedia Britannica, once asked for Baillier’s Medical Dictionary as a present and threw a tantrum beside a Diplodocus when it was closing time at the end of his first visit to a natural history museum. M)

Richard Borcherds (b. 1959, winner of the Fields Medal in 1998 (considered to be as prestigious as a Nobel Prize, for which there is no prize in mathematics), currently a professor of mathematics in the US. Born in Cape Town, a childhood special interest was constructing polyhedra, his talent in mathematics developed early, an accomplished chess player as a teen, educated in the UK, formerly at Cambridge University. In 1998 Borcherds had a consultation with Professor Simon Baron-Cohen, a leading autism expert, this lengthy process was described in detail in Chapter 11 of Baron-Cohen's book The essential difference, Prof. Borcherds’ parents were consulted for information about what he was like as a child. In this chapter Baron-Cohen more than once referred to Borcherds as a person who has AS, but in the same chapter Baron-Cohen writes "Certainly, he is not currently severe enough in his symptoms to warrant a diagnosis in adulthood, as his symptoms are not interfering with his daily functioning ..." and later Baron-Cohen explains that in a different environment having AS could be a problem for Borcherds (Baron-Cohen 2003 p. 163-164), M)

Gordon Brown (b. 1951, full name James Gordon Brown, born in Scotland, former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, former Chancellor of the Exchequer of the UK, former leader of the Labour Party in the UK. Brown is a very intelligent man with a very strong work ethic. He was an academic high achiever in high school, was accepted into university at the age of 16, and completed a doctorate. In his teens a sport injury left Brown blind in one eye, and he came close to losing sight in his other eye. Many words have been written about the time when Brown was the Chancellor of the Exchequer and Tony Blair was the Prime Minister of the UK. Andrew Turnbull has been quoted in a book describing the Brown/Blair partnership “They were almost the exact opposite of each other in terms of personality types so they complemented each other,” (Rawnsley 2010 p.57). Unfortunately, it appears that there was much distrust and conflict of interests in within this team, with Blair and Brown supported by their own opposing camps. Brown has been described as “the most powerful Chancellor of the Exchequer since William Gladstone in the middle of the 19th century.” (Osborne 2010). Brown has been described as “dour and often awkward in public”, has been accused by various political figures of being autistic, uncollegiate, psychologically flawed, possessing "steamrolling persistence." (Rawnsley 2010 p. 56) and a "depth of knowledge that is phenomenal." (Rawnsley p.543). Regarding Brown’s style of working, he has been described as "... the control freak's control freak." (Rawnsley 2010 p. 473), "addicted to headline chasing" (Rawnsley 2010 p.544), and a workaholic. Brown had the habit of working and making phone calls at unusual hours. As a PM Brown has been described as "pathologically determined to try to run every bit of Government himself." (Rawnsley 2010 p. 545). Some commentators have stated that they find Brown’s smile unnatural-looking. Political journalist Andrew Rawnsley’s 2010 book The end of the party described a number of episodes of bad behaviour of PM Brown’s that appears to be evidence of a very bad temper. It has also been observed that Brown can be very charming and funny at times, especially in the company of people that he likes. There has been speculation over the years that Brown may be autistic, and also speculation about Brown’s mental health, and a lot of this speculation has been within a context of vicious personal criticism from political enemies. M)

Warren Buffett (b. 1930, American investor, businessman, philanthropist, currently the third richest person in the world. In 2008 listed as the world’s richest person by Forbes magazine. Buffett has a legendary reputation as an investor, and is known as “the sage of Omaha”. Many books have been written about Buffett and his investment strategies.

As a toddler Buffett showed a lack of confidence when we was learning to walk, and at around the age of 2 he was content to sit at his mother's feet staring quietly at a toothbrush for "two hours at a stretch" (Schroeder 2008 p.46). He had some unusual childhood hobbies - browsing a model train catalogue for hours, repetitively timing marbles rolling down a bathtub with a stopwatch, recording the license plate numbers of passing cars with a friend, memorizing facts. Buffett also collected bottle caps, stamps and coins when he was a boy. He made money from working in his own businesses and bought his first shares at around the age of 10. During his college years Buffett’s prodigious memory made studying easy, but he dressed poorly, had little luck with girls, was an annoying smartalec, a fussy eater and was generally “socially maladjusted” (Schroeder 2008 p. 97). He discovered a much-needed system for getting along with people and self-presentation in Dale Carnegie’s famous book How to win friends and influence people. Buffett conducted his own informal controlled trial of the advice given in this book, and he found that it worked, but Buffett was still a man with a restless mind and a limited diet who had little interest in social climbing.
Buffett’s mother was intelligent and had excelled as a student of mathematics. She was “obsessed with fitting in” (Schroeder 2008 p.207), and was verbally abusive to Warren and his older sister when they were young children. Her family had a history of high intelligence and depression in women, some of them admitted to mental institutions but no clear diagnosis was made. The biography of Buffett The snowball by Alice Schroeder contains much evidence indicating that Buffett may be an autist (and possibly also his business partner and his mother), it inspired at least two writers to speculate about Buffett and autism (Cowen 2009 p.30), (Lawson 2008), but there is no explicit mention of autism or AS in this book.
Despite his incredible wealth, Buffett is known for his frugal ways and has shown little interest in fashion or fancy food. For a large part of his life Buffett had a wife who he lived apart from but was on good terms with and also openly lived with a female companion, who he married in 2006. Buffett is reportedly an agnostic. Bill Gates, who is also in this list, has also been listed as the richest person in the world, is also known for his philanthropy, also has an unpretentious taste in food, and wears suits of the same Chinese label that Buffett wears, has been described as having a son-like relationship with Buffett. (Rushe 2008). M.)

Michael Burry (b. 1972?, American founder and manager of the Scion Capital LLC hedge fund, who correctly predicted the 2007 collapse of the subprime mortgage market. Burry is also a graduate of a medical school. During his residency in neurology Burry discovered that he did not enjoy working as a doctor. He made the decision to pursue his sideline as an untrained investment guru as a career and founded Scion Capital, a very successful fund that investors who were familiar with Burry were very keen to invest in. Burry subscribed to the “value investing” philosophy favoured by investment genius Warren Buffett, who is also in this list. Scion consistently outperformed the stock market. In 2005 Burry changed the direction of Scion from value investing to shorting selected subprime mortgage bonds using credit default swaps. Burry correctly predicted a collapse in 2007 of the subprime mortgage market and made a fortune for himself and investors, despite being pressured to sell some investments before the crash by frightened investors. In 2008 Burry closed Scion to focus on his own investments. Burry has argued in the New York Times that the US federal regulators should have recognized the risks in the subprime mortgage market that he had identified. When his child was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome Burry realized that he also has the condition. During his time as a resident neurologist Burry had been misdiagnosed with bipolar, a diagnosis that Burry had never believed. Burry has been profiled in two recent books about investors who made money out of the 2007 collapse of the US housing bubble (Lewis 2010), (Zuckerman 2009) M) 

Tim Burton (b. 1958, American director of many popular films including Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Nightmare Before Christmas and Edward Scissorhands, as well as some Batman blockbusters. Outsiders, loneliness and Gothic style are recurring themes in Burton’s movies. Burton's long-term partner English actress Helena Bonham Carter has identified him as possibly autistic. It has been suggested that Burton was able to create a near-perfect allegory of a man with Asperger syndrome in the movie Edward Scissorhands because he has the condition himself (Sampson 2004). Burton's latest movie is Alice in Wonderland, based on the story by Lewis Carroll, who has also been identified as an autistic famous person. A retrospective exhibition of Burton’s art at the Museum of Modern Art in New York has been very successful, and is scheduled to be shown in Melbourne in 2010 along with a retrospective festival of Burton’s movies. M)

David Byrne (b. 1952, Scottish-American musician, was a singer and songwriter with the defunct New Wave band Talking Heads, collaborated with Brian Eno, won a Golden Globe Award in 1988, an Academy Award in 1987 and a Grammy Award in 1988 with others for the score of the movie The Last Emperor, quote from Byrne’s blog from 2006 “I was a peculiar young man — borderline Asperger's, I would guess.”, in some 2007 media interviews Byrne speculated that he once had AS, one web site claims Byrne “was recently diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome.” , in his teens Byrne did his own editing and layering musical experimentation with his father's reel-to-reel tape recorder, L-H, M)

Bram Cohen (b.1975, American computer programmer, author of the BitTorrent computer downloading program, co-founder and CEO of the BitTorrent company. The first words that Cohen learned to read were computer programming commands. He displayed precocious talent in computer programming. He dropped out of college. Cohen is reportedly self-diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, and this has been discussed in articles in the press, magazines, a book chapter and an interview published at an online AS forum. M)

Helen Dale/Darville/Demidenko (b. 1972, born Helen Darville, literary pseudonym Helen Demidenko, changed name to Dale reportedly to avoid discrimination in job interviews, Australian writer, P.E. teacher, winner of The Australian/Vogel Literary Award in 1993 (at age 22), the Miles Franklin Literary Award in 1995, and the Australian Literary Society Gold Medal in 1995, as Helen Demidenko, all awarded for the novel The Hand That Signed the Paper, this novel, it’s author and the awards ignited a storm of controversy in Australia that inspired the publication of four books about the affair, Dale gained a reputation as a chronic liar when she lived in the fictional persona of half-Ukrainian Helen Demidenko “on and off for at least three years” (Prior 1996). In a 2008 interview that gave rise to a newspaper feature article, claims by Dale to be severely dyslexic and a possible case of Asperger syndrome are reported (Wheatley 2008). According to an autobiographical article in Quadrant Dale was given phonics tuition and occupational therapy as a child for dyslexia and went from the bottom of the class to the top within 6 months, has claimed to have a very high IQ. Dale has expressed political views that could be categorized as right-wing, she is involved with the Australian Skeptics, during the Demidenko affair was defended by Australian poet Les Murray, literary editor of conservative journal Quadrant who himself claimed to be autistic and considers himself a pariah from a leftist Australian literary establishment. Dale finds commercial law fascinating and is reported to be currently studying postgraduate law at Oxford. R-H?)

Greg Egan (b.1961, Australian science fiction author and computer programmer, winner of a Hugo Award in 1999 for the novella Oceanic, and has won three Locus Awards. Egan and some other literary figures were identified as possible cases of Asperger syndrome in an article published in 2006 in a science fiction magazine, which is interesting considering that Egan has created at least two autistic fictional characters. In Egan’s 1995 novel Distress the character James Rourke is a representative of the (fictional) Voluntary Autists Association and he shares some interesting opinions about autism. The main character of Distress, Andrew Worth, has also been identified as having an autistic personality and this novel has been cited as one of the first to feature such a personality as a central element (Hassler & Wilcox 2008 p.18), many years before the publication of The curious incident of the dog in the night-time by Mark Haddon. Greg Egan is known for his reclusiveness. He does not attend science fiction conventions nor sign books. At his web site he has explained that "There are no photos of me on the web." Egan is an atheist and he has contributed an essay to the 2009 book 50 voices of disbelief: why we are atheists. Egan's latest novel is titled Zendegi.)

Tim Fischer AC (b. 1946, Australian ex-politician, was the Deputy Prime Minister in the Howard Government from 1996 until he retired from Cabinet in 1999. Fischer was also the Trade Minister and leader of the National Party of Australia. He retired from Parliament in 2001, and is currently the Australian Ambassador to the Holy See. Fischer was nominated into this position by the then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, from the other side of Australian politics. Fischer left politics in 2001 to spend time with his family, including a son diagnosed with autism. He has a reputation for being inarticulate but is a well-respected public figure. Fischer has been a railway enthusiast since childhood. As a student in boarding school Fischer was a loner with a speech impediment and an odd gait who was taunted, but he went on to later become a prefect and the winner of a debating prize (Rees 2001 p. 318). He was drafted into the army and led a platoon in Vietnam. He married at the age of 46. Fischer was quoted in 1999: “…to some extent I had a very mild form of autism in my early years.” Fischer credited his autism as the cause of some “intense areas of study and interests” (Rees 2001 p.319). As an adult Fischer has been described as a “self-sufficient loner” (Rees 2001 p. 318). M)

Bill Gates KBE (b.1955, full name William Gates III KBE, American co-founder and chairman of Microsoft Corporation and has been the chief software architect and CEO of Microsoft, the richest person in the world for a number of years, global philanthropist. Gates read an encyclopaedia through when he was a child. As a school student Gates had some conflicts with teachers, showed a love of organizing things and high ability at geography and other subjects, but got poor grades in citizenship and penmanship. Gates was thought to be a bit immature, with a messy desk and not paying attention. One student remembered Gates playing Risk “the board game of global domination” (Manes 1993 p.19). Gates’ mother took him to see a psychiatrist at the age of 11 as she was concerned at his shyness and remoteness, the psychiatrist considered Gates to be unchangeable (Rivlin 1999). In his youth Gates was good at activities such as skiing, but not much good at team sports. Gates was fortunate to go to a school that gave access to a computer through a terminal in 1967, formed a successful computer program company with friends aged 14, later dropped out of Harvard to form Microsoft, Gates is one of the many great entrepreneurs who have no MBA. Bill Gates is reputed to have a very high IQ, an extraordinary memory, a horrible temper and tendencies towards arrogance, rudeness and absent-mindedness, at least in his younger years. Gates has been described as a workaholic and an insomniac, sleeping in odd places and at odd times. As a driver Gates has a record of speeding and inattentiveness. The eccentric Nobelist synaesthete physicist Richard Feynman was much admired by Gates. A video of Gates rocking in an autistic manner during a 1998 legal deposition can be viewed on YouTube. It appears that Gates tends to rock when concentrating and possibly when stressed. This love of rhythmic motion can be traced back to his childhood – rocking himself in a cradle as a baby, spending hours on a rocking horse as a child, later rocking in class while explaining algebra at the blackboard (Manes 1993 p.15, p. 24). Gates is also known for his spontaneous jumping at work. A nerdy lack of awareness of fashion can also be traced back to Gates’ childhood. Gates has been the subject of speculation that he is autistic from a number of different published sources over many years. The author of a 2009 book about autism compared some of Gates’ characteristics with the DSM-IV diagnostic criteria for “Asperger’s disorder” and concluded that he would probably be given a diagnosis if he sought one (Benaron 2009 p.56). Bill Gates is a friend of the billionaire Warren Buffett, who is also in this list (see above). L-H, M)

Temple Grandin (b.1947, American animal science Associate Professor, industrial designer, writer and animal rights and autistic rights advocate, diagnosed with “brain damage” at age of 2, diagnosis changed to autism during childhood, formally diagnosed with Asperger syndrome when a adult. Before attending college Grandin had been a student at a boarding school for intellectually gifted children who have trouble learning in a regular setting (2E children). A biographical made for TV movie titled Temple Grandin featured Claire Danes cast as Temple Grandin.)

Daryl Hannah (b. 1960, American film actress and campaigner for environmental causes, her lifestyle is also environmentally friendly, according to one press article Hannah lived in a fantasy world for years as a child, was “diagnosed borderline autistic”, at the age of 7, got kicked out of school and had medication recommended for her by doctors, but her mother decided to take her out of school for a year, a 2009 press article about Hannah did not mention autism, but did describe her school rejecting her as a student at the age of 6, being given a battery of tests, giving an incorrect answer to what appears to have been a test of theory of mind, being recommended for institutionalization, and her mother taking her out of school for a year. Hannah had insomnia during childhood. Some of Hannah's most memorable roles include the bioengineered robot Pris in the cult science fiction movie Blade Runner and the mermaid in Splash)

Peter Howson OBE (b. 1958, Scottish painter, an official war artist in the Bosnian Civil War, war, religion, working-class men and the popular singer Madonna are some themes covered in his work which has been collected by a number of celebrities, reported as having Asperger syndrome, a condition shared by his daughter. Howson has been treated for alcohol and cocaine addiction, and has converted to Christianity. M)

Ladyhawke/Pip Brown (b.1979, full name Phillipa Brown, New Zealand pop music singer-songwriter, she plays all of the instruments in the studio but tours with a band. In 2009 Ladyhawke won 2 ARIA Awards and was nominated for some others. Brown claims to have been diagnosed with AS by a psychologist (Sauma 2008) and she has discussed AS in a number of press interviews. Pip prefers to wear casual boy's and men's clothing. Allergies to various important medications and a rare infectious disease caused problems for Brown during her childhood. She is also lactose intolerant. Courtney Love, who is also in this list, is reportedly one of Ladyhawke's fans. L-H?)

Paul Laffoley (b. 1940, American architect and artist in the visionary style, classified by some in the outsider art genre. Laffoley was given electroshock treatments for neurasthenia when he was a university student, lost a job as a draughtsman working on one of the World Trade Center towers in New York after suggesting the towers be connected by a pedestrian bridge, worked for Andy Warhol (who some believe was autistic). Some people reportedly believe Laffoley has a metal implant of extraterrestrial origins lodged in his brain, and Laffoley has reportedly lived and worked in a utility room for over 40 years. He has claimed that “… he has a mild case of Asperger's disorder ...” (Johnson 2007)

Deborah Locke (maiden name Webb, Australian whistleblower, former Detective Senior Constable in the NSW police force, awarded the Commissioner's Certificate of Merit for her reporting of police mismanagement and corruption, which led to the establishment of the Wood Royal Commission (Royal Commission into the New South Wales Police Service), which led to the establishment of the Police Integrity Commission, long-time member of Whistleblowers Australia, candidate for the (not-then-registered) People Power political party in Australia in the Werriwa by-election of 2005. Locke is also the mother of a son with autism and an autism and disability advocate. She also works as a manager of a women’s and childrens’ refuge in Sydney, and is also involved with an autism support group which she founded with her husband. Locke was described as “an aspie” in the Australian documentary film by Stephen Ramsay Oops, Wrong Planet. Locke is reportedly diagnosed with high functioning autism. Locke's story, as told in her book Watching the Detectives, is a major source of material for the latest installment on the infamous Australian TV series Underbelly, titled Underbelly: the golden mile. Locke’s character Debbie Webb is played by Cheree Cassidy. M)

Courtney Love (b. 1965, American singer/songwriter and actress, a member of the alternative rock band Hole, widow of Kurt Cobain, left-handed lead singer/songwriter/guitarist from the alternative rock band Nirvana. According to a biographer Love was diagnosed as a child by a therapist as mildly autistic, and she had a very tough and troubled childhood. She has experienced a number of personal problems associated with drug abuse. Love has been described as the most controversial woman in rock. Love has been described as a “female rock star who’s made art out of anger...”. She made a spectacle of herself in 2004 on The Late Show with David Letterman. Courtney Love/Hole’s latest CD titled Nobody’s Daughter was released in 2010. M) 

Darius McCollum (b. 1965, American with African heritage, urban legend, impersonator of New York City Transit Authority employees, has been imprisoned, obsessed with trains since early childhood, at age 11 was stabbed and seriously injured by another student in his special-education class in an unprovoked attack, has a lengthy criminal record as a result of his interference with the New York rail and subway system, although it is widely believed that McCollum has AS, an insanity defence in court based on an AS diagnosis failed, a request that the transit authority hire McCollum in some capacity was refused, M)

Reg Mombassa (b. 1951, real name Christopher O’Doherty, New Zealand born Australian artist and musician. O’Doherty was a co-founding member, lead guitarist, vocalist and songwriter in the Australian band Mental as Anything which was most popular in the 1980s and is still active as a rock band. He is also famous for his designs for the surfwear company Mambo Graphics, which are generally cartoon-like, vulgar, funny, disturbing and/or bizarre and likely to appeal to male adolescents. Some of O’Doherty’s Mambo designs were adapted as giant float displays for the Sydney 2000 Olympics closing ceremony.

O’Doherty enjoyed drawing since his early childhood, pictures with masculine themes such as warfare and weapons. He was anxious as a child and still retains a tendency to experience the unpleasant emotions. O’Doherty’s mother sold encyclopaedias and passed on her love of book-learning to her sons. Chris developed a fascination with history which lasted to his adult years. WWII and the American Civil War are particularly interesting to O’Doherty. During his high school years O’Doherty taught himself to paint by copying pictures in art books. He claimed that he generally learns best on his own. During his teen years O’Doherty was a “violence magnet” and got into the habit of heavy drinking. It is ironic that O’Doherty is famous for designs for a surfwear label, as he did not feel a part of surf culture in his youth, does not like the feel of cold water, does not enjoy visiting the beach and is generally not an outdoors type. O’Doherty also paints peaceful rural/outer suburban landscapes, and one could say his art turns the ordinary into something extraordinary. O’Doherty completed a questionnaire about Asperger syndrome published in a newspaper, and found that he “came up fairly high on it” (p. 395) and he concluded that “...I think I’ve got a mild case of that...” (p.55). Dog Trumpet, the band which O’Doherty and his brother Peter are currently members of, has released a CD titled Antisocial Tendencies, and in 2005 O’Doherty had an art exhibition titled Recent Developments in Anti-Social Realism. O’Doherty habitually wears a shirt with a suit jacket, even in the bush. M, R-H?)

Caiseal Mor (b. 1961, Australian fantasy novelist (with Irish heritage), and musician, despite being advised not to disclose his autistic status for the sake of his writing career, in a 2007 autobiography A blessing and a curse Mor revealed that he was diagnosed as autistic and suffered from abuse as a child, he did not speak till the age of 4, Mor suffers from Dissociative Identity Disorder and PTSD, M)

Les Murray (b. 1938, full name Leslie Allan Murray, considered to be Australia’s greatest living poet, won T. S. Eliot Prize in 1996 for Subhuman Redneck Poems, wrote two novels of verse, literary editor of conservative journal Quadrant, was commissioned to write a preamble to the Australian Constitution and also to rewrite Oath of Allegiance, considers himself a pariah from a leftist Australian literary establishment, Murray is no stranger to controversy. He started speaking before age 2 with a prodigious early memory for nursery rhymes, taught self to read at age four, started school at age 9, read the 8 volume Cassell’s Encyclopaedia at home, from early years often subject to harsh physical discipline from his father, was bullied in high school, won a scholarship to university, spent some time as a drifter, worked as a translator and public servant. Murray has a long history of (formally diagnosed) clinical depression. One of his children is autistic. Like another person in this list Murray has eyes of different colours (heterochromia) (Alexander 2000 p.27). Murray has claimed in a poem The Tune on Your Mind, and in numerous interviews to be “a bit Aspergers”, described as “diagnosed” with AS in some media articles. Murray has written about his autistic son's autistic characteristics in the poem It allows a portrait in line scan at fifteen. There is speculation that Murray may win a Nobel Prize for Literature one day. Murray’s latest publication is Taller When Prone, a book of poems. M, R-H)

John F. Nash Jr. (b. 1928, American mathematician, won the Nobel Prize in economics in 1994 with two other game theorists, won the John von Neumann Theory Prize in 1978 for inventing Nash equilibria, known to the public as the subject of the biographical book and the Academy Award-winning movie both with the title A Beautiful Mind, in childhood showed advanced intellect a keen interest in science and was a loner, initially studied chemistry and engineering at university, diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and mild depression in 1959, in 1970 chose to stop taking his schizophrenia medication, anecdotes of homosexual behaviour or overtures have been reported, according to legend Dr Nash had the habit of working on mathematics on university blackboards in the middle of the night, reported to have untidy handwriting, may have been a lefthander who was made to use his right hand for writing, one of his sons reportedly diagnosed with schizophrenia. In the paper in which Prof. Michael Fitzgerald argued that Nash has Asperger syndrome, Fitzgerald does not dispute the diagnosis of schizophrenia. M)

Craig Newmark (b. 1952, American Internet entrepreneur and founder of the website Craigslist. Craigslist is a network of online communities that features free online classified advertisements in a range of categories. Craigslist is an unusual company in that it has no marketers, no human resources, no meetings, no sales department and no business development (Wolf 2009), thus solving the common problem of conflict between the technical people and the marketing/business people in tech companies. It has been estimated that Craigslist would be worth billions if sold (Wolf 2009), and it has been blamed for causing decreases in newspaper's revenue from classified ads. In a 2009 blog posting Newmark speculated that he might have AS, and he has referred to himself as a recovering nerd. A 2009 Wired magazine article about Newmark and Craigslist described some traits of Newmark's that could be described as autistic.)

Craig Nicholls (b. 1977, Australian lead singer/songwriter/guitarist in critically-acclaimed Australian rock band The Vines, childhood interests of painting and listening to the Beatles are evident in his adult career, the Vines started out playing Nirvana covers, the “F-word” can be heard in all of the Vines’ CDs to date. The Vines' made a particularly wild appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman in 2002 which can be viewed on YouTube. Nicholls was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome in 2004 by AS expert Dr Tony Attwood after being charged with assault, Nicholls found touring with the band to be stressful, his parents were consulted for information about what he was like as a child during the diagnostic process. Nicholls resolved to reform his cannabis and junk food habits. In 2008 Asperger syndrome was cited by many media sources as the cause of an apparent mental health crisis suffered by Craig Nicholls which lead to the cancellation of Vines appearances at a number of Australian rock festivals and an overseas tour, while cancellation announcements at the Vines own web site cited severe "flight related anxiety" as a cause of cancellation of WA dates, and made no explicit mention of AS or autism as the reason for the rest of the 2008 cancellations. The Vines are expected to release a new album in 2010 and are listed as a support band for Powderfinger’s farewell tour for three dates. L-H?) 

Gary Numan (b. 1958, born Gary Webb, English electro-pop music pioneer, at the beginning of his career recorded under the name Tubeway Army, biggest hits were Are ‘Friends’ Electric? and Cars. In the 1970s Numan's army of fans called themselves "Numanoids". During those years Numan's stage persona was an unsmiling alien-like loner, and he was reportedly the subject of ridicule and vilification by the UK music press. There days Numan is regarded as a respected musical artist and an aviation enthusiast who has flown around the world. Gary Numan was reportedly diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome by himself and his wife, and he has discussed having AS a number of times in press and music media interviews. Numan is an atheist. M)

Tim Page (b. 1954, American music critic, writer, editor producer and professor. Page was written about classical music for the New York Times, Newsday and the Washington Post. In 1997 he was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for his work as a music critic. Page has also written professionally about film and literature. He wrote the first biography of American author Dawn Powell, and played a major part in the revival of interest in her work, in a prolific burst of work that is clearly an example of an autistic special interest. Page has written introductions to books about the music of Canadian pianist Glenn Gould, who is also in this list. In 2007 Page revealed in an article in New Yorker magazine that he had been diagnosed with Asperger syndrome in 2000. In 2009 Page’s memoir was published in which he discussed life as an autist. M)

Grigori Perelman (b. 1966, (also known as Grisha Perelman, Grigoriy Perelman) Russian-Jewish mathematician. In 2002 Perelman published his proof of the Poincaré Conjecture, one of the most important and difficult problems in mathematics, proposed by Henri Poincare in 1904. In 2006 he was awarded the very prestigious Fields Medal, but Perelman declined the award and did not attend the IMU congress. He was the first person to decline this award. In March 2010 Perelman was awarded the million dollar Millennium Prize for his proof of the Poincare conjecture. There are reports that Perelman has said he does not need the money. There has been much speculation about whether or not Perelman will accept the prize. Perelman has expressed disappointment with the ethical standards of the field of mathematics. In 2009 Perelman was reportedly not working and was living with his mother in Russia, some sources claiming he has given up mathematics. A biography of Perelman was published in 2009 Perfect rigor, in which the author reportedly argued that Perelman has Asperger syndrome (Gessen 2009).)

John Elder Robison (b.1957, American author of the bestselling 2007 memoir Look me in the eye : my life with Asperger's. Robison is the brother of Augusten Burroughs (pen name), the author of a number of autobiographical books including Running with scissors. John E. Robison is also the manager of J E Robison Service Co which does sales, service, repair and restoration on a number of imported makes of vehicles. Early in his career Robison’s skills in electronics were applied to the rock music industry, working as a sound advisor for Pink Floyd and KISS, and designing the special effects guitars used by KISS during concert tours at the height of their popularity. Later Robison worked in electronic design for the toy manufacturer Milton Bradley. Robison has served on a panel reviewing grant applications for the National Institutes of Mental Health and in 2010 Robison was appointed to two review boards of the controversial charity Autism Speaks. Another book by Robison is expected in 2011. Robison was diagnosed with AS as an adult, and has a son who also has AS. M)

Vernon L. Smith (b.1927, American professor of economics, winner of a Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences in 2002. Smith is reported as having Asperger syndrome. A TV news story interview with Smith and his wife in which they discuss AS can be viewed at MSNBC. Smith's autobiography was published in 2008 Discovery - a memoir in which Smith discusses evidence for and against the proposition that he has Asperger syndrome. An economics professor who recruited Smith has written “I see him as a living, walking example of the cognitive strengths of autism.” (Cowen 2009). M) 

Richard Stallman (b.1953, sometimes uses the name “rms”, US born with Jewish heritage, software engineer, founder of the free software movement, launched the GNU Project, inventor of the “copyleft” concept, awarded a MacArthur Fellowship in 1990 and awarded many honorary doctorates and professorships, has been described as a “force of nature”, for many years lead an unconventional squatter lifestyle at a university, speaks a number of languages, an atheist who celebrates December 25th not as Christmas but instead as a parody of Christmas celebrating Newton’s birthday on this date. In an interview Stallman described a difficult and rebellious childhood in which he was sent to a private school in which most students “were either insane or stupid”, and according to another source “Stallman considers himself afflicted, to some degree, by autism, a condition that, he says, makes it difficult for him to interact with people.” (Bezroukov 1996-2006), but in a 2008 article Stallman is quoted as saying he does not have AS, but possibly has a “shadow” version of AS (Tennant 2008). In chapter three of Sam Williams' biography of Stallman Free as in freedom, Williams discusses the idea that Stallman had/has autism with Richard Stallman, a university classmate, and Stallman's mother. Stallman enjoys reading science fiction, including works by Greg Egan, who is also in this list. Stallman occasionally attends science fiction conventions, where he is presumably most unlikely to meet one of his favourite authors. R-H?)

Lawrence Summers (b. 1954, American economist with Jewish heritage, In September 2010 Summers announced that he would be stepping down from his position as Director of the White House's National Economic Council for President Barack Obama and return to teaching at Harvard University. Summers was the Secretary of the Treasury in Bill Clinton’s administration, was Chief Economist of the World Bank, and was the President of Harvard University for 5 years. Summers’ comments at a 2005 conference that women may be under-represented in science and engineering because of innate sex differences caused great controversy and discussion around the world, his views were defended as scientifically justified by popular science writer and academic Steven Pinker. In a 2005 magazine article Richard Bradley discussed the theory that Summers has Asperger syndrome, which Bradley claimed to be the topic of gossip and speculation among the Harvard University community. The famous and outspoken biologist James Watson repeated similar speculation about Summers in his 2007 book Avoid boring people, (which really is the pot calling the kettle black). Summers entered MIT at age 16, was a tenured professor at Harvard at age 28, has uncles on both sides of his family who won Nobel Prizes in economics in the 1970s, and his parents were also economists. M, R-H?)

Satoshi Tajiri (b. 1965, Japanese electronic game designer, creator of Pokémon (also known as Pocket Monsters), as a child was fond of collecting insects, has a working schedule that involves unusual sleeping patterns, reported to be diagnosed with Asperger syndrome)

Daniel Tammet (b.1979, 
born Daniel Corney and changed his surname in 2001 (Foer 2011) by deed poll reportedly because it did not fit his self-image (Johnson 2005). DT is the anonymous name given to Tammet when written about as a case study in science journal papers. Tammet is most famous as a well-presented autistic synaesthete mathematics, memory and language savant who writes autobiographical and psychology books. Tammet has created and operates an online educational company, and has a background in teaching English as a second language (Tammet 2006). 

In 1999 and 2000 Tammet competed in the World Memory Championships (WMC) (under his original surname), attaining a rating of fourth in the world in 2000 (Foer 2011 p.219). Tammet's WMC achievements include winning a gold medal in the "names and faces" event (Foer 2011 p.230). In 2001 Tammet was describing himself as a “World-class mentathlete, memory sport pioneer, personal empowerment coach, spiritual development teacher and speaker and a leading authority on Mindpower and Human Potential” at the website that he published at the time: www.DanielTä

In 2002 Tammet was one subject in a study of a group of WMC participants by Maguire et al which found that their memory superiority was not driven by exceptional intellectual ability or structural brain differences but was instead due to "a spatial learning strategy". Tammet and other “superior memorizers” were tested for face memory, but the test used had obvious flaws. As a group their performance was superior but comparable to the bright but normal control group. I found no mention of synaesthesia in that paper, published in the prestigious journal Nature Neuroscience in 2002-3. In 2004 Tammet reportedly became the holder of the British/European record (under his new surname) for remembering and recounting the number Pi to 22,514 decimal places, an event held to raise money for a charity, but according to the “Pi World Ranking List” website, Tammet made an error at 2,964 decimal places limiting his record to that lower figure.

Being featured in the award-winning documentary Brainman (alternative title The Boy with the Incredible Brain) appears to have been a turning point for Tammet. Tammet met Dr Darold Treffert “in the summer of 2004, during filming for the documentary Brainman” (foreword by Tammet of Treffert 2010). Treffert is considered to be an authority on “savant syndrome”, and he told Tammet he met the diagnostic criteria for the condition (Tammet 2006, p. 236). Tammet was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome (AS) at age 25 at the Autism Research Centre (ARC) (Tammet 2006, p.6) and his consultation with Prof. Simon Baron-Cohen of the ARC, considered a leading authority on autism, was shown in the Brainman documentary. Tammet was also examined by the US neuroscientist V. S. Ramachandran and his research team in the documentary, and they wrote a short paper about Tammet. In 2005 two popular UK press articles were published reviewing the Brainman doco broadcast on UK television, both including claims that Tammet can “recall the face of every person he has ever met” (Bletchley 2005). In 2006 Tammet’s first autobiography Born on a Blue Day was published, and Baron-Cohen and Treffert both wrote forewords for it. In 2007 two journal papers about Tammet, both by Baron-Cohen and co-authors, were published in different science journals. One of these papers explained that Tammet was given a test of face memory and it was concluded that “...his face memory appears impaired...” (Baron-Cohen et al 2007). Both 2007 papers mentioned Tammet’s Pi record (reported as a European record to 22,514 places) under his new name but did not mention his WMC participation under his old name which included the “names & faces” task. In his 2009 autobiography Embracing the Wide Sky Tammet claimed that “...I have great difficulty remembering faces, even of those of people I have known for many years” (Tammet 2009 p.61) and he then discussed his perception of faces in a way that is eerily similar to the way that the famous synaesthete super memory feat performer Solomon Shereshevskii’s perception of faces was described in the classic case study by Luria The Mind of a Mnemonist (Luria 1987 edition p. 64).

A centrally important feature of the explanation for Tammet's memory feats that has been put forward by Tammet, Baron-Cohen, Treffert, the Brainman documentary and many media reports is that Tammet's performances of superior memory are claimed to be effortless and the result of inborn neurological differences such as autism, synaesthesia and the after-effects of an epileptic childhood, and are not the result of mnemonic techniques or memory training as practiced by memory competition participants. One of the 2007 papers about Tammet by Baron-Cohen and his research team included the assertion that "While some memory experts accomplish similar feats after extensive training, this does not explain DT's abilities, since he has had no explicit training." (Bor, Billington & Baron-Cohen 2007).

Doubts have been raised about Tammet's savantism, synaesthesia and his claimed severe disability in recognizing faces (prosopagnosia). Much of what has been written about Tammet fails to mention his World Memory Championship achievements in 1999 and 2000, his 2001 name change or his participation in the 2002 study of memory contest participants. In the 2011 book Moonwalking With Einstein by WMC champion Joshua Foer, Foer explores the argument that Tammet's achievements are due to well-known memory training techniques and not savantism, synaesthesia, autism or any other inborn peculiarity.

Tammet was reportedly diagnosed with temporal lobe epilepsy during childhood (Tammet 2006 p.35), and had a paternal grandfather whose life was ruined by adult-onset epilepsy (Tammet 2006 p.36-37). Tammet has a brother who is also diagnosed with AS (Tammet 2006 p.13) (Baron-Cohen et al 2007 p.8). In his first autobiography Tammet described his father’s curiously unnamed mental illness involving physical collapse which had an onset well into adulthood (Tammet 2006 p.99-102), but I found no mention of schizophrenia in this book. In his second autobiography Tammet identified his father as a long-time sufferer of schizophrenia, and one of the 2007 journal papers about Tammet includes a claim that his father has diagnosed with schizophrenia (Baron-Cohen et al 2007). Tammet has claimed to have a WAIS IQ score of 150 (Tammet 2009). He also reportedly has vivid synaesthesia, speaks 11 languages and is creating a new language, has trouble telling left from right, and cannot drive a motor vehicle (Tammet 2006). In the book Born on a Blue Day Tammet identified himself as a Christian in a long term same-sex relationship, and in a 2009 interview Tammet explained that they had parted amicably and he was now with a new partner (Wilson 2009). In his foreword to the 2010 book Islands of Genius by Darold Treffert, Tammet wrote that he was currently working on a novel. According to a 2012 article at a blog at the website of magazine Psychology Today Tammet is living in the south of France with a “talented French photographer” in an apartment in Avignon that has great views, is selling art inspired by synaesthesia through his own website and has a third book Thinking in Numbers: How Math Illuminates Our Lives scheduled for publication in the UK in August 2012. R-H, H, M, A.)

Stephen Wiltshire MBE (b.1974, English architectural artist with West Indian heritage. His electrical engineer father died when he was 3 years old. Stephen was diagnosed with autism at 3 years. Wiltshire’s first word was “paper”, uttered at the age of 6 (Treffert 2010). His talent for drawing was evident early, and he was drawing cityscapes before he learned to speak properly at the age of 9 with the help of special education teachers. Wiltshire was a teen before he was able to cross a road alone. He graduated from art school in 2008. Stephen is famous for his remarkable ability to remember and draw accurately buildings and cityscapes in detail after only one viewing, which is often a helicopter ride. Wiltshire’s art has been featured in a number of commercially successful books and a 2010 calendar. In 2006 Wiltshire was awarded an MBE for services to the art world. During that year he opened his own gallery in London. In addition to his drawing Wiltshire has musical talents and has perfect pitch. Stephen does not like swimming because “the water is always too cold.” Rain Man is reportedly his favourite movie. R-H.)

*L-H denotes people identified as left-handed or initially left-handed in any reputable source or from photographs

*R-H denotes people identified as right-handed in any reputable source of from photographs

*M denotes those who have been at any time formally married or in a long-term defacto or homosexual relationship that has been described as a marriage


About Dan Aykroyd CM 
Gross, Terri. (2004) Comedian – and writer – Dan Aykroyd. Fresh Air. NPR. November 22 2004.
[discusses his childhood diagnosis at around 29 minutes into this radio interview]

About David Bellamy OBE
Bellamy, David (2002) A natural life: the autobiography of David J. Bellamy OBE, Hon FLS, an Englishman. Arrow Books.
[“some special sort of autism” is mentioned briefly in Chapter 18, on page 238 of the paperback edition]

Bellamy, David (2003) Jolly green giant: the autobiography of David J. Bellamy OBE, Hon FLS, an Englishman. (large print edition, first published 2002) Chivers Press.
[Appears to be the same book as A natural life, “some special sort of autism” is mentioned briefly in Chapter 18, on page 325 of the large print edition]

Hattenstone, Simon (2002) The green man. Guardian Unlimited. September 30 2002.

About Richard Borcherds
Baron-Cohen, Simon (2003) The essential difference. Penguin Books, 2003.

[Richard Borcherds' diagnostic consultation described in detail in Chapter 11]
[Chapter 11 " A professor of mathematics" from the book The essential difference]
Cowen, Tyler (2009) Autism as academic paradigm. Chronicle Review. July 13th 2009.
[This excellent article mentions economist and Nobel laureate Vernon L. Smith, Fields Medalist Richard Borcherds and academic Temple Grandin as autistic high achievers. The author is a professor of economics and he writes that he is a former colleague of Smith's.]
Gold, Karen (2000) The high-flying obsessives. Guardian. Guardian Unlimited. December 12th 2000.,4273,4103969,00.html
[Wittgenstein, Einstein, Bill Gates, Richard Borcherds, Temple Grandin]

Singh, Simon (1998) Interview with Richard Borcherds (Fields medallist). The Guardian. simon August 28th 1998.

About Gordon Brown

Harris, Robert (2006) “Autistic” Brown loses the plot. The Sunday Times. TimesOnline. September 10, 2006.,,2087-2350740.html

Osborne, Peter (2010) The paradoxical premier: a man of massive talents, huge contradictions and tragic flaws, Gordon Brown’s achievements – and they were towering – were more than matched by his disastrous misjudgements. MailOnline. May 13th 2010.

Rawnsley, Andrew (2010) The end of the party. Viking, March 2010.

About Warren Buffett

Numerous clips of interviews with Mr Buffett can be found on YouTube and Google Videos.

Cowen, Tyler (2009) Create your own economy: the path to prosperity in a disordered world. Dutton, 2009.
[Vernon Smith, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Peter Mark Roget, Adam Smith, Hermann Hesse, Warren Buffett, Tim Page, Hikari Oe, Craig Newmark, Bram Cohen, Temple Grandin, Glenn Gould, Immanuel Kant, Thomas Jefferson are all discussed in this book with reference to the autistic spectrum]
Lawson, Dominic (2008) The snowball: Warren Buffet and the business of life by Alice Schroeder. Sunday Times. TimesOnline October 12th 2008.

[Lawson argues that Buffet possibly has AS, based on info presumably found in the biography that is reviewed]

Rushe, Dominic (2008) Warren Buffet lifts the lid on his secrets. Sunday Times. TimesOnline September 28th 2008.

[an interesting article about the man and the story behind the biography, no mention of AS or autism]

Schroeder, Alice (2008) The snowball: Warren Buffett and the business of life. Bantam, 2008.
[This authorized biography does not mention AS or autism, but does mention Buffett’s “social skill deficiencies” a number of times.]

About Michael Burry
60 Minutes (2010) Extra: the $8.4 billion bet. 60 Minutes. CBS March 14th 2010.;contentBody

60 Minutes (2010) Extra: Wall Street misfit. 60 Minutes. CBS March 14th 2010.;contentBody

Burry, Michael (2010) I saw the crisis coming. Why didn’t the fed? New York Times. April 3rd 2010.
[autism or AS not mentioned]

Kroft, Steve, Devine, L. Franklin (producer) and MacDonald, Jennifer (producer) (2010) Inside the collapse. 60 Minutes. CBS March 14th 2010.
video part 1;housing

video part 2;housing


[Asperger syndrome mentioned]

Lewis, Michael (2010) Betting on the blind side. Vanity Fair. Number 596 April 2010. p. 76-81, 121-126.
[An interesting extract from Michael Lewis’ book, Asperger syndrome described and revealed]

Lewis, Michael (2010) The big short: inside the doomsday machine. W. W. Norton & Company, 2010. [Asperger syndrome mentioned]

Pressler, Jessica (2009) Bad news bears: the guys who bet against the bubble and won. New York. November 3rd 2009.
[brief review of Zuckerman’s book, Asperger syndrome mentioned]

Zuckerman, Gregory (2009) The greatest trade ever: the behind-the-scenes story of how John Paulson defied Wall Street and made financial history. Broadway Business, 2009.

[Asperger syndrome mentioned]

About Tim Burton
Billen, Andrew (2010) We’re all a bit mad. Weekend Australian. Review. March 27-28th 2010 p. 14-15.
[no mention of AS or autism in this article about Helena Bonham Carter and her private life with Tim Burton]

Billen, Andrew (2010) Helena Bonham Carter on bullies, Tim Burton and Alice In Wonderland. Times. TimesOnline March 5th 2010. [same article as above]

Bodey, Michael (2010) Adventures in wonderland. Weekend Australian. June 12-13 2010 Review. p.6-8.
[no mention of AS or autism. Quote from article: "I used to draw because I didn't speak and I would just communicate through drawings..."]

Breskin, David (1992) Tim Burton: the Rolling Stone interview. Rolling Stone. n 634-635, 07.09.1992-07.23.1992. republished at The Tim Burton Collective.

[an interesting interview that includes much talk of depression but no mention of AS or autism]
Burton, Tim and Salisbury, Mark (2000) Burton on Burton. revised edition, Faber & Faber, 2000.

Entertainment News Staff (2005) Helena Bonham Carter’s child craving. Softpedia. November 17th 2005.

Hanke, Ken (1999) Tim Burton: an unauthorized biography of the filmmaker. Renaissance Books, 1999.
[I believe does not mention autism or AS]

O’Brien, Kerry (2010) Interview with the king of quirk Tim Burton. (video) ABC News. June 28th 2010
[was broadcast on the 7.30 Report, includes discussion of Burton’s 2010 art exhibition in Melbourne and depression, no mention of AS or autism]

Sampson, Cory (2004) Tim Burton’s Edward Scissorhands as a psychological allegory. The Tim Burton Collective.

World Entertainment News Network (2005) Burton may be autistic.

About David Byrne (accessed 2007) Music: Artists: Talking Heads.

Byrne, David (accessed 2007) David Byrne Journal.
[quote from entry dated 4/15/06; “I was a peculiar young man — borderline Asperger's, I would guess.”]

Purcell, Andrew (2007) Imelda: the nightclub years. The Guardian. January 29 2007.,,2000888,00.html

Seed (magazine) editorial staff (2007) David Byrne + Daniel Levitin: the singer/songwriter and the neuroscientist meet up to discuss music. April 30 2007.

About Bram Cohen

Berfield, Susan (2008) BitTorrent's Bram Cohen isn't limited by Asperger's. BusinessWeek. October 16th 2008.

Cohen, Bram (accessed 2008) Bram Cohen quotes. Brainy Quote.
[some revealing quotes by Bram Cohen, AS is mentioned]

Lee, Ellen (2006) Founder of BitTorrent unlocks the secrets of online file sharing. San Francisco Chronicle. August 8th 2006 Edition: final, Section: business, p. F1.

Roth, Daniel (2006) Torrential reign. p. 201-209 In:
Greene, Brian (editor) (2006) The best American science and nature writing 2006. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2006.

Roth, Daniel (2005) Torrential reign. Fortune. October 31 2005.

Thompson, Clive (2005) The BitTorrent effect. Wired. Issue 13.01 January 2005. (2005) Bram Cohen: creator of BitTorrent.

About Helen Dale/Darville/Demidenko
Dale, Helen (2006) My life as a young Australian novelist. Quadrant. May 2006 p. 14-21.
[article with comments, I found Dale’s explanation of why she chose to enter the world of literature, in comment no. 17, interesting]
[not currently in Quadrant archives]

Dale, Helen (2006) The Hand Behind The Hand that Signed. Skeptic. Autumn 2006 Volume 26 No 1. (journal of Australian Skeptics Inc.)
[this is the same article as above, info given about childhood, family, the Demidenko affair, her treatment by journalists, “the chattering classes” and literary people at the time, and her life in recent years. Interestingly, Dale described a childhood in an itinerant family with debt problems which seems incompatible with her private (high) school education at Redeemer Lutheran College, which was not explicitly mentioned. Dale’s most negative description of her father in this article and in other media stories seems inconsistent with the info given on p.47 of the 1996 book by Prior listed below, which says that Dale/Darville’s father was reported in the press as being the same “Harry Darville” who was a candidate for the Greens in the 1993 federal election (winning 4.5% of the vote in Fadden), “and that Helen was his election manager.” In the All in the Mind radio interview listed below Dale/Darville gives 1996 as the date of her father’s appearance in court on a soliciting charge – running for federal parliament in 1993 and in court for soliciting 3 years later? Hard to believe. No mention of AS or autism in this article.]
Dalley, Helen (1997) Helen Darville breaks her silence. Sunday. Ninemsn. June 8th 1997.
[feature story/interview on a current affairs TV show, I found the bit where they discussed Demidenko as a persona interesting, no mention of AS or autism]

Jensen, Erik & Harvey, Ellie (2008) The pain that may explain Helen Darville. Sydney Morning Herald. May 9th 2008.
[“Helen Darville … suggests characteristsics of Aspergers syndrome may explain her aloofness.” In this brief article promoting a feature article it is claimed that Dale is "severely dyslexic".]

Malcolm, Lynne (2006) Whatever happened to Helen Demidenko? All in the Mind. ABC Radio National. April 29th 2006.
[transcript of interesting radio interview, discusses her childhood, family, the Demidenko affair and recent life, gives a negative description of her father]

Prior, Natalie Jane (1996) The Demidenko diary. Mandarin.
[a very interesting account of the Demidenko affair from the point of view of a writer “friend” of Dale’s who sheltered her while she was in hiding from hostile journalists, “What immediately caught my attention on this first meeting – apart from her striking appearance – was the way she totally failed to be absorbed into the group.” (p. 15), some unusual autistic behaviour (of Dale’s) described on p. 79]

Wheatley, Jane (2008) Reinventing Helen. West Australian. WestWeekend Magazine. September 6th 2008 p.24-28.
[feature article, Wheatley claims she was considering whether Dale has AS before Dale brought up the subject, Wheatley appears to have summarized and accepted Dale’s description of her childhood in an itinerant family with debt problems from the Skeptic/Quadrant article, which seems incompatible with her private (high) school education at Redeemer Lutheran College, which I could find no mention of in this article, gives a negative description of her father]

Wikipedia contributors (accessed 2008) Helen Darville. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.

Wikipedia contributors (accessed 2008) Redeemer Lutheran College. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.
[the college gives it’s side of some stories, and this seems to be confirmation that Helen Dale/Darville did attend this school]

Wilson, Katherine (2006) The blogger formerly known as Demidenko. Crikey. September 11th 2006.

Works by Helen Demidenko

Demidenko, Helen (1994) The hand that signed the paper. Allen and Unwin.
[the novel that started it all]

Papaellinas, George (editor) (1995) RePublica: issue 3: Scarred for life. Angus and Robertson.
[Other places by Helen Demidenko is on p. 93-97, about a blonde Ukrainian girl who has won an award and fame, and is invited to make a speech at the outer-suburban Australian public high school that she graduated from. There nothing to indicate whether this is presented as an autobiographical essay or a fictional short story. This volume includes a diverse mixture of genres.]

About the Demidenko Affair
Ryan, Judith & Thomas, Alfred (editors) (2003) Cultures of forgery: making nations, making selves. Routledge, 2003.
[includes a chapter about the Demidenko affair]

The Demidenko file. (1996) editors: John Jost, Gianna Totaro & Christine Tyshing. Penguin, 1996.

Manne, Robert (1996) The culture of forgetting : Helen Demidenko and the Holocaust. Text Publishing.

Manne, Robert (2005) Left right left: political essays 1977-2005. Black Inc.
[includes material from his book about the Demidenko affair]

Prior, Natalie Jane (1996) The Demidenko diary. Mandarin.
[a very interesting account of the Demidenko affair from the point of view of a writer friend of Dale’s who sheltered her while she was in hiding from hostile journalists]

Riemer, Andrew (1996) The Demidenko debate. Allen and Unwin.
[described as sympathetic to Helen D, but even-handed]

Warren, Agnes (1995) Why it took the media so long to write a story about the life of prize-winning author Helen Demidenko. The Media Report. ABC Radio National. August 24th 1995.
[“a language therapist” associated with Dale’s high school is mentioned as one of the people who identified “Helen Demidenko” as Helen Darville]

Who's who?: hoaxes, imposture and identity crises in Australian literature. (2004) editors: Maggie Nolan & Carrie Dawson. University of Queensland Press.

About Greg Egan
Greg Egan's Home Page

Hassler, Donald M. & Wilcox, Clyde (2008) New boundaries in political science fiction. University of South Carolina Press, 2008.
[Egan not identified as autistic here, but the autism of two fictional characters created by Egan discussed, can be previewed at Google Books]

Westfahl, Gary (2006) Homo aspergerus: evolution stumbles forward. Locus Online. March 6th 2006.
[H. L. Gold, H. P. Lovecraft and Greg Egan identified as possible cases of AS]

About Tim Fischer
Fischer `mildly autistic' as child (1999) The Newcastle Herald (includes the Central Coast Herald). Dec 14, 1999. Edition: Late, Section: News, pg. 5

McLeonard, Kieran (1999) Tim Fischer tells of life with autism. AM Archive. ABC Local Radio. 13th December 1999.

On the brink 1 – Tim Fischer. Life Matters. ABC Radio National. 13th December 1999.
[“The first of our series 'On the Brink', about the teenage years…” Fischer claimed to have had a degree of autism]
Rees, Peter (2001) The boy from Boree Creek: the Tim Fischer story. Allen and Unwin, 2001.
[parts can be read through Google Book Search, Tim Fischer and autism discussed on pages 318-319]
Wright, Tony and Gray, Darren (1999) Fischer claims autistic links with his child. The Age (Melbourne). December 14th 1999. Edition: National, Section: News, pg. 3

About Bill Gates

Benaron, Lisa (2009) Autism. Greenwood Press, 2009. [book series: “Biographies of disease”. A discussion box on pages 56-57 checks Gates against DSM-IV criteria for AS and the author concludes that “it seems highly likely that Gates would be given a diagnosis of AS if he were to seek out an evaluation”. ]

Bill Gates. (1998) Recorded September 2nd 1998.
[video of Bill Gates rocking]

Caplan, Arthur (2005) Would you have allowed Bill Gates to be born?: advances in prenatal genetic testing pose tough questions. May 31 2005.
[it might be worth noting that when this article was published was half owned by Microsoft and half owned by NBC Universal, was a component of MSNBC which was 18% owned by Microsoft]
Elmer-DeWitt, Philip & Farley, Christopher Joh (1994) Diagnosing Bill Gates. Time. Vol. 142 Issue 4:p 25.

Isaacson, Walter (1997) In search of the real Bill Gates. Time. January 13th 1997.,9171,1120657,00.html
[a revealing old article about Gates’ personality that discusses his friendship with Warren Buffett, but no mention of AS or autism]

Lowe, Janet (1998) Bill Gates speaks: insight from the world’s greatest entrepreneur. John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
[the discussion of Gates and autism only summarizes the Time magazine article, but this book contains much information about Gates’ early life, personality and eccentricities]

Manes, Stephen and Andrews, Paul (1993) Gates: how Microsoft’s mogul reinvented an industry – and made himself the richest man in America. Doubleday, 1993.
[lots of info about a young Bill Gates]

Rivlin, Gary (1999) The plot to get Bill Gates: an irreverent investigation of the world's richest man and the people who hate him. Random House.
Seabrook, John (1994) E-mail from Bill. New Yorker. January 10th 1994. [lengthy old article about Gates’ personality, no mention of AS or autism]

About Temple Grandin
Cowen, Tyler (2009) Create your own economy: the path to prosperity in a disordered world. Dutton, 2009.

[Vernon Smith, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Peter Mark Roget, Adam Smith, Hermann Hesse, Warren Buffett, Tim Page, Hikari Oe, Craig Newmark, Bram Cohen, Temple Grandin, Glenn Gould, Immanuel Kant, Thomas Jefferson are all discussed in this book with reference to the autistic spectrum]

Elder, Jennifer and Thomas, Marc (Illustrator) (2005) Different like me: my book of autism heroes. Jessica Kingsley, 2005. 
[Grandin and many other famous people are profiled in this book for a junior readership written by the mother of an autist]

Grandin, Temple (2008) The way I see it: a personal look at autism and Aspergers. Future Horizons, 2008.

Grandin, Temple (1995) Thinking in pictures: and other reports from my life with autism. 1st edition. Doubleday. 1995.

Grandin, Temple (with Margaret Scariano) (1991) Emergence: Labeled Autistic. Arena Press, 1991.

Ratey, J., Grandin, T. Miller, A. (1992) Defense behavior and coping in an autistic savant: the story of Temple Grandin, PhD. Psychiatry. 1992 Nov;55(4):382-91.

Temple Grandin (movie) (2010) Director – Mick Jackson
[Made for TV biographical movie about Temple Grandin, who is played by Claire Danes.]

Treffert, Darold A. (2010) Islands of genius: the bountiful mind of the autistic, acquired, and sudden savant. Jessica Kingsley, 2010.
[Blind Tom Wiggins, Temple Grandin, Flo and Kay Lyman, Daniel Tammet, Stephen Wiltshire, James Henry Pullen and hyperthymestic syndrome are discussed]

About Daryl Hannah
Erickson, Hal (2006) Daryl Hannah.

Green with envy at Daryl Hannah. MailOnline. April 21st 2007.
[according to this article Hannah was diagnosed as "borderline autistic" at age of 7] (2006) Daryl Hannah. CNET Networks Inc.

Wood, Gaby (2009) A bigger splash. Weekend Australian. July 18-19 2009 Review p. 22-23.
[autism not mentioned but other details of childhood given "They wanted to institutionalise me."]

Wood, Gaby (2009) I'm a little bit of a nerd. Observer. June 7th 2009.
[same article as above]

About Peter Howson

Art Company Scotland

Deveney, Catherine (2007) Autistic temperament. Scotland on Sunday. March 11 2007.

MacDonald, Stuart (2008) Peter Howson: my 'murderous' rage. The Sunday Times. July 27th 2008.

Tierney, Michael (1998) The haunting. The Herald. 26th December 1998.

About Ladyhawke/Pip Brown
Cochrane, Greg (2008) Ladyhawke speaks about Asperger's. BBC News. November 24th 2008.

Lester, Paul (2008) Asperger's, allergies and aubergines. September 11th 2008.

NME (2008) Ladyhawke: 'People shouldn't be scared of Asperger's Syndrome'. NME. November 24th 2008.

Sauma, Luiza (2008) Ladyhawke: 'You have no idea what I have been through'. Independent. November 16th 2008.

About Paul Laffoley
Coleman, Michael (accessed 2008) Laffoley archive: Paul Laffoley biographical info.

Johnson, Ken (2007) A beautiful mind. The Boston Globe. February 11th 2007.

About Deborah Locke
Biennial Australian Autism Conference
Rydges Lakeside, Canberra
Friday, 1 October - Sunday, 3 October, 2004
[includes an abstract of a talk scheduled to be given by Deborah Locke about working as a policewoman on the autistic spectrum]

Deborah Locke: former NSW detective.

Kym, Ali and Dzelde (2010) Underbelly: the real Debbie Webb. Kym Ali and Dzelde blog. Triple M. May 24th 2010.
[no mention of AS or autism in this interesting commercial radio interview]

Lane, Terry (2003) Fair Cop*. The National Interest. ABC Radio National. September 28th 2003.
[Terry Lane interviews Deborah Locke and Dr Janet Chan, no mention of AS or autism]

Locke, Deborah Lee (2003) Watching the detectives. ABC Books for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 2003.
[It looks just like a non-fiction biography/police/crime book, it is catalogued by the National Library of Australia as a non-fiction book (it has a Dewey call number and non-fiction subject headings in it’s Cataloguing-in-Publication data), and it is cataloged and shelved as non-fiction in my local public library, but on the copyright page there is a disclaimer stating that it is a work of fiction based on actual events. If it’s true it’s an amazing story. The trials of parenting a child diagnosed with “severe ADHD, moderate to severe autism and global delay” who was born prematurely are described]

Masters, Chris (2004) Corruption Inc. Four Corners. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 14th June 2004.
[investigative journalism, no mention of AS or autism]

Masters, Chris (2004) Training day. Four Corners. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 27th July 2004.
[investigative journalism, no mention of AS or autism]

Ramsay, Stephen (2008?) Oops, wrong planet.
[a documentary film in which Locke is featured and is described as an aspie]

Rotary Down Under. Issue 520 August 2010. [includes info and photo about Locke being awarded the Outstanding Woman of Achievement Award]
Silvester, John and Rule, Andrew (2010) Underbelly: the golden mile. Floradale Productions and Sly Ink, 2010.
[Chapter 8 “Debbie does detectives” p.118-150 is about Deborah Locke]

Underbelly: the Golden Mile.
[The character Debbie Webb is actually Deborah Locke]

Whistleblowers Australia. (2004) The Whistle: newsletter of Whistleblowers Australia. No. 36. January 2004.
[photo of Debbie Locke with NSW Police Commissioner Ken Moroney after receiving her Certificate of Merit]

Williams, Robyn (2008) Living with Asperger’s. The Science Show. ABC Radio National. September 13th 2008.
[the soundtrack of the documentary film Oops, wrong planet by Stephen Ramsay, in which Locke is featured and described as an aspie]

About Courtney Love
Brite, Poppy Z. (1997) Courtney Love: the real story. Orion Books.
[diagnosis described on p.7-8]

About Darius McCollum
Haberman, Clyde (2005) Back in Prison, Guilty Mainly of a Fixation. The New York Times. April 12th 2005.

Knight, Sam (2005) On the wrong track. Times Online. April 18th 2005.

Murphy, Dean E. (2001) Crimes of Passion, for Trains; Where the Courts See Guilt, Others Find an Affliction. New York Times. March 15th 2001.
[includes comments by AS expert Tony Attwood]

Tietz, Jeff (2002) The boy who loved transit: how the system failed an obsession. Harper’s Magazine. May, 2002. 
[lengthy article]

About Reg Mombassa (Christopher O’Doherty)
Kaye, Lorien (2010) 100% creative: uncovering Reg Mombassa. Age (The Melbourne). January 30th 2010. 1st edition section A2 p. 21.
[a short review of Waldren’s book in which Kaye criticises Waldren for not paying enough attention to Mombassa’s claims about Asperger syndrome and his “melancholia”.]

Keenan, Haydn (director) (2006) Golden sandals: the art of Reg Mombassa. [a 26 minute PG rated documentary about Mombassa featuring animated versions of his artwork, broadcast on SBS in 2007]
L’Estrange, Sarah (2009) Off the shelf with Reg Mombassa. The Book Show. ABC Radio National. February 15th 2010.
[famous Australians discuss their favourite books in this regular radio series]

Reg Mombassa’s Web Site

Thompson, Peter (2007) Reg Mombassa. Talking Heads. ABC TV. first screened 23rd July 2007.

[transcript of this interview available, no mention of AS or autism]

Waldren, Murray (2009) The mind and times of Reg Mombassa. Harper Collins, 2009.
[A detailed and personal biographical and art book including history of the band Mental as Anything, featuring a lot of eye-catching art and photographs. Asperger syndrome mentioned on pages 32, 55 and 395.]

Waldren, Murray (2009) High anxiety. Weekend Australian. Review. October 24-25th 2009. p. 6-7.
[an extract from the book, illustrated with Mombassa’s art, no mention of AS or autism]

About Caiseal Mor
Caiseal Mor (web site)

Mor, Caiseal (2007) A blessing and a curse: autism and me. Jessica Kingsley, 2007.

Wikipedia contributors (accessed 2009) Caiseal Mor. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.

Williams, Donna (2007) Audio interview with Caiseal Mor. Oddpod. May 6th 2007.

Williams, Donna (2007) Bestselling novelist, Caiseal Mor comes out as autistic. Donna Williams' Blog. April 22nd 2007.
[a transcript of an interview with Donna Williams]

About Les Murray
Alexander, Peter F. (2000) Les Murray: a life in progress. Oxford University Press.
[Les Murray’s autism mentioned on page 25, his heterochromia mentioned on page 27, his son’s autism described in chapter 18]

Baird, Julia (2006) Les Murray: the poet who helped save the Snowy. Sunday Profile. ABC Local Radio. June 4, 2006.

Clark, Sue (presenter) & Koval, Ramona (interviewer) (2009) The Biplane Houses - Les Murray. Life & Times. ABC Radio National. August 29th 2009.
[a repeat of a 2006 interview from The Book Show in which Murray discussed Asperger syndrome, poetry and reading postcode books, and he read two of his poems that are about AS/autism]

Gray, Robert (2010) The omnivorous writer. Weekend Australian. April 10-11 2010 review p.18-19. [autism mentioned briefly in this review of Taller when prone]

Mares, Peter (2009) Les Murray and the black dog. The Book Show. ABC Radio National, October 8th 2009. [Interview with Murray to promote the republication of his essay Killing the black dog, in which Murray discusses the impact of depression on his writing, and autism briefly mentioned]
Mitchell, Paul (2006) Paul Mitchell reviews Les Murray. Cordite Poetry Review. Number 24, 1st July 2006.
[A review of the book The biplane houses in which Mitchell discusses the influence that he believes Murray's AS has had on Murray's poetry and personality]

Moran, Rod (2007) Murray’s troubled waters run deep. The West Australian. Weekend Extra, page 4, February 10, 2007.

Murray, Les, with introd. by Potts, Robert (2009) It allows a portrait in line scan at fifteen. Times Literary Supplement. TimesOnline. March 30th 2009. [The TLS Poem of the Week, which is about the autistic characteristics of Murray's autistic son]

Murray, Les (2009) Killing the black dog. (revised edition) Black Inc, 2009. [Murray makes reference to his own and his son's autism on pages 22, 32 and 36. The poems Demo and The Averted appear to be about the experience of being autistic.]

Murray, Les (1997) Killing the black dog: essay and poems. The Federation Press. 
[Murray claims to be “very mildly autistic” on page 17]

Neill, Rosemary (2006) Songs of experience. Australian. April 8 2006.

Phillips, Juanita (2007) Lunch with Les Murray. Bulletin. March 20 2007.

Potts, Robert (2004) The voice of the outback. Guardian. May 15, 2004.,12084,1216273,00.html

Thompson, Peter (2010) Les Murray. Talking Heads. ABCTV. broadcast June 21st 2010.

[transcript available, autism mentioned a couple of times]
Wootten, William (2006) Salt, land and tears. Guardian. October 21, 2006.,,1927616,00.html

About John F. Nash Jr.
Arshad M, Fitzgerald M. (2002) John Nash: Asperger’s syndrome and schizophrenia? Irish Psychiatrist. 2002; 3(3) 90-94.

Brooks, Michael (2004) The return of a beautiful mind. New Scientist. December 18th 2004 vol. 184 issue 2478 p.46-49.
[an interesting interview, AS or autism not mentioned]

Lyons V., Fitzgerald M. (2004). The case of Robert Walser. Irish Journal of Psychological Medicine. 21, 4, 138-142. [about Robert Walser, also refers to “John Nash who won the Nobel prize for economics …”]

About Craig Newmark
Cowen, Tyler (2009) Create your own economy: the path to prosperity in a disordered world. Dutton Adult, 2009.
[Craig Newmark, Bram Cohen and Temple Grandin are reportedly mentioned in this book]

Newmark, Craig (2009) My nerd thing and Asperger's Syndrome. cnewmark (Newmark's personal blog). January 6th 2009.
[Newmark wonders if he has AS and lists some traits]

Newmark, Craig (2003) Craigslist documentary update. cnewmark (Newmark's personal blog). September 27th 2003.

[Newmark explains that he has been interviewed for a documentary about Asperger syndrome, referring to himself as a "(recovering) nerd".]

Uygur, Cenk (2008) Craig Newmark on the phone with The Young Turks. The Young Turks (website). "07/09/2008"
[video of an interview with Newmark]
Wolf, Gary (2009) The tragedy of Craigslist. Wired. September 2009 17.09 p. 98-109, p.138.

[some obvious hints that Newmark has autistic traits on p. 102, but no explicit mention of AS or autism.]

About Craig Nicholls 

AAP (2008) The Vines cancel tour as Craig Nicholls's condition worsens. Australian. November 17th 2008.,25197,24663892-601,00.html

McCabe, Kathy (2004) Rock and a hard place. (The Sydney) Daily Telegraph. November 20 2004, Edition: 1- state, Section: features, p.27.

McCabe, Kathy (2004) Star's secret agony. (The Sydney) Daily Telegraph. November 20 2004, Edition: 1- state, Section: local, p. 3.

McLean, Craig (2006) Stop Making Sense. Guardian Unlimited. The Observer (Magazine). March 5 2006.,,1723555,00.html

Mathieson, Craig (2009) Playlisted: everything you need to know about Australian music right now. New South, 2009.
[the chapter titled Freedom of choice on p.125-132 is about The Vines and Nicholls and covers Nicholls' diagnosis, not particularly insightful]

Munro, Kelsey (2006) From the ashes with a vengeance. Sydney Morning Herald. September 8th 2006 Edition: first, Section: news, p.13.

Mushroom Music Publishing (accessed 2009) Local songwriters: The Vines: biography. (2006) Craig Nicholls breaks his silence over Aspergers diagnosis. May 19 2006.

Sheffield, Rob (2002) The Vines. Rolling Stone. August 26th 2002.
[cover story, autism and AS not mentioned]

Valentish, Jenny (2008) As long as no one gets hurt … Jmag. Issue 19, July 2008 p. 38-42.
[Valentish find the task of interviewing a rock musician with AS a daunting task]

The Vines (accessed 2009)
[The news post dated November 14th 2008 announced the cancellation of 2008 festival appearances and tour of Japan citing a deterioration in Craig Nicholls’ "mental condition" as the reason, but not explicitly mentioning AS or autism. The news post dated November 10th 2008 announced the cancellation of their Perth show due to Nicholls' severe "flight related anxiety".]

The Vines (2002) The Vines - Get Free (HQ, Live @ Letterman). YouTube. Late Show With David Letterman. Episode dated July 19th 2002?.
[There are other recordings of this performance on YouTube, but not all have the witty comments from after the ad break. The Vines did later return to the Letterman show to do another performance.]

About Gary Numan
Boyd, Brian (2006) Old friends electric. Irish Times. August 11 2006.

Buck, Robbie (2009) Gary Numan. Triple J. March 5th 2009.

[audio of complete interview, Numan talks about AS in his life, and also recounts some most exciting moments as an amateur aviator]
Buck, Robbie (2009) Gary Numan - Interviewed. Triple J. April 16th 2009.
[video of edited interview screened on Triple J TV, Numan briefly mentions his AS]

Freud, James (2002) I am the voice left from drinking: the Models - from the 'burbs to 'Barbados' and beyond. HarperCollins, 2002.
[pages 63-76 cover the time when the Models toured with Gary Numan and some members recorded with Numan. The many differences between the habits and personalities of Freud (a feminine but hetero party boy) and Numan (rather uncouth as a young man and possessing an extreme male brain) are interesting to note. Not surprisingly their recording project was not a success.]

Gary Numan

[AS is discussed towards the end of the page]

Grant, Peter (2007) Gary Numan: Aspergers made me aloof. Liverpool Echo. July 20th 2007.

NME (2006) Gary Numan reveals rare condition. NME. November 6th 2006. (2005) Gary Numan: it’s easy to be happy when you’re financially secure. May 11th 2005.
Wikipedia contributors (accessed 2007) Gary Numan. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.

Williams, Andrew (2006) 60 seconds: Gary Numan. Metro. November 6 2006.

About Tim Page
Fabrizio, Doug (2007) Parallel play. RadioWest. KUER. August 22nd 2007.
[radio interview, AS mentioned]
Maslin, Janet (2009) Reflections on a life lived way outside the box. New York Times. September 2nd 2009.
[one has to wonder if the parts towards the end of this article, a review of Page’s 2009 memoir, are a description of a case of hyperthymestic syndrome]

Page, Tim (2007) Parallel play. New Yorker. August 20th 2007.
[an interesting article]
Page, Tim (2009) Parallel play : growing up with undiagnosed Asperger's. Doubleday, 2009.

Siegel, Robert (2007) Pulitzer-winner on living with Asperger’s. All Things Considered (Science). NPR. August 13th 2007.

[radio interview with Page, AS mentioned]

About Grigori Perelman
Aron, Jacob (2010) Will reclusive mathematician accept $1 million prize? New Scientist. March 19th 2010.

[no mention of AS or autism]
Gessen, Masha (2009) Perfect rigor: a genius and the mathematical breakthrough of the century. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009.
[Author reportedly argued in this book that Perelman has Asperger syndrome. I have not read this book yet.]

Harding, Luke (2010) Grigory Perelman, the maths genius who said no to $1m. Guardian March 23rd 2010.

[no mention of AS or autism]

Stewart, Will (2010) World’s cleverest man turns down 1$million prize after solving one of mathematics’ greatest puzzles. MailOnline March 23rd 2010.
[no mention of AS or autism]

Zasky, Jason (2009?) Million dollar math problem. Failure.

[biographer Masha Gessen interviewed, no mention of AS or autism]

About John Elder Robison
Burroughs, Augusten (2004) Magical thinking: true stories. Hodder, 2004.
[the chapter titled “Ass burger” on pages 161-168 is about Burroughs’ autistic brother J. E. Robison and their often confusing relationship before Robison was diagnosed as an adult. The page numbers given on the contents page of this book are incorrect.]

Burroughs, Augusten (2003) Running with scissors. Picador, 2003.
[Chapter 9 titled “He was raised without a proper diagnosis” is about J. E Robison, given the pseudonym Troy Burroughs in this book] 

John Elder Robison
Robison, John Elder (2007) Look me in the eye : my life with Asperger's. Bantam, 2007.
[includes a foreword by Augusten Burroughs. On page 179 Robison explains why he did not trust a manager because of his constant smiling which seemed false.]

About Vernon L. Smith
Breit, William & Hirsch, Barry T. (2009) Lives of the laureates: twenty-three Nobel economists. 5th edition. MIT Press, 2009.
[Vernon L. Smith is one of the economists covered in this edition of this book of autobiographical essays. I do not know if AS or autism is mentioned as I have not read this book.]

Cowen, Tyler (2009) Create your own economy: the path to prosperity in a disordered world. Dutton, 2009.

[Vernon Smith and many other famous people discussed in this book with reference to the autistic spectrum. The author of this book is an economics professor who recruited Smith.]

Herera, Sue (2005) Mild autism has ‘selective advantages’: Asperger syndrome can improve concentration. February 25 2005.
[includes a link to a TV news story interview with Smith and his wife in which they discuss AS]

Smith, Vernon L. (2008) Discovery - a memoir. Author House, 2008.
[The author outlines evidence for and against the case that he has Asperger syndrome in chapter 9.]

About Richard Stallman
Bezroukov, Nikolai (1996-2006) Portraits of open source pioneers: chapter 3 Prince Kropotkin of software: Richard Stallman and the war of the software clones.

Gross, Michael (accessed 2007) Richard Stallman, high school misfit, symbol of free software, MacArthur-certified genius. The More Things Change.

Jones, K. C. (2006) A rare glimpse into Richard Stallman’s world. TechWeb News. InformationWeek. January 6th 2006.

[doesn’t mention autism/AS but does cover Stallman’s childhood and personality]

Leonard, Andrew (2002) Code free or die. April 2nd 2002.

Reilly, Michael (2008) Freedom fighter. (online title: Interview: how a hacker became a freedom fighter.) New Scientist. No. 2651 April 12th 2008. p. 42-44.
[AS or autism not mentioned in this interview]

Richard Stallman's Personal Home Page

Tennant, Don (2008) Editor’s notes: Asperger’s oxymoron. Computerworld. October 6th 2008.
[Stallman claims to have not AS but a shadow version of AS]

Williams, Sam (2002) Free as in freedom: Richard Stallman’s crusade for free software. O’Reilly Media, Inc., 2002.
Online book:

[AS discussed in Chapter 3]

About Lawrence Summers
Bradley, Richard (2005) Harvard Rules: the struggle for the soul of the world’s most powerful university. HarperCollins, 2005.

Bradley, Richard (2005) Lawrence of absurdia. Boston Magazine. March 2005.

Razib (2005) Larry Summers has Asperger’s syndrome? Gene Expression. February 17th 2005.
[a thought-provoking article posted in an internet forum following the Summers political incorrectness affair]

Summers, Lawrence (2005) Remarks at NBER Conference on Diversifying the Science & Engineering Workforce, Cambridge, Mass. January 14, 2005.
[the speech that provoked controversy]

Watson, James D. (2007) Avoid boring people: lessons form a life in science. Oxford University Press.
[speculation that Summers may have AS on page 319]

About Satoshi Tajiri
The hot 100 game developers. (2006) Next Generation. Future Network USA. 18th March 2006. p. 1-11.

Plaza, Amadeo (2006) A salute to Japanese game designers. AmpedNews. Amped News Network. February 6th 2006. p. 1-2.

Wikipedia contributors (accessed 2007) Satoshi Tajiri. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.

About Daniel Tammet
Azoulai, Shai, Hubbard, Ed, & Ramachandran, V. S. (accessed 2011) Does synesthesia contribute to mathematical savant skills?

Baron-Cohen S, Bor D, Billington J, Asher JE, Wheelwright S and Ashwin C. (2007) Savant memory in a man with number-shape synaesthesia and Asperger Syndrome. Savant Memory in a Man with Colour Form-Number Synaesthesia and Asperger Syndrome.  Journal of Consciousness Studies. volume 14, number 9-10, September-October 2007, p. 237-251.
["DT", the subject of this study, is explicitly identified in the paper as Daniel Tammet]

Biever, Celeste (2009) Peek inside a singular mind. New Scientist. January 3rd 2009, number 2689, p. 40-41.
Online version:
Biever, Celeste (2009) Inside the mind of an autistic savant. New Scientist. January 7th 2009.

Beltchley, Rachael (2005) Brain Man!: Fit at age3 turns Dan into whiz who can add like a calculator and learn a language in 15hrs just like film hero; MIND-BOGGLING SKILLS OF MODEST TEACHER. People, The (London, England) January 30th 2005. republished by The Free Library by Farlex.

Bor, D, Billington, J, Baron-Cohen, S. (2007) Savant memory for digits in a case of synaesthesia and Asperger syndrome is related to hyperactivity in the lateral prefrontal cortex. Neurocase. 2007 Oct;13(5):311-9.
Alternative citation: Neurocase. 2008 13(5-6) p.311-319.
DOI: 10.1080/13554790701844945
[Unfortunately this revealing paper remains behind a paywall. Daniel Tammet is definitely the subject of this study, named “DT” in this paper. The fMRI study failed to find expected activity that would indicate synaesthesia, but did find activity consistent with the use of the memory technique known as “chunking”. Authors tried to explain findings with a claim that Tammet’s synaesthesia is a special type.]

CBSNews (2009) Brain man. 60 Minutes. October 8, 2009.;contentBody
[transcript available]

Doerfler, Ron (2008) Lightning calculators III: the media. Dead Reckonings. April 15th 2008.
[Part three of a most interesting series published at a blog, which appears to be the same content as the essay “Lightning calculators” published April 16th 2008.]

Doerfler, Ron (2008) Lightning calculators. April 16th 2008.
[An interesting essay that includes a section titled “Deconstructing the BrainMan Documentary”. Doerfler argues that the producers of the Brainman doco set out to mislead the viewer, and that one mathematical problem solved by Tammet was done by means of memorizing a repeating group. Includes an incorrect statement that Tammet’s Pi record was a world record. The author is a former teacher, author of the book Dead reckoning : calculating without instruments and the blog Dead Reckonings and the website ]

Ericsson, K. Anders (2003) Exceptional memorizers: made, not born. Trends in Cognitive Sciences. Vol.7 No.6 June 2003. p.233-235.
[discusses the Maguire et al study which Tammet took part in]

Foer, Joshua (2011) Moonwalking with Einstein: the art and science of remembering everything. Allen Lane/Penguin, 2011.
[includes a chapter about Tammet in which Tammet’s achievements in the World Memory Championship under his original name of Daniel Corney in 1999 and 2000 are discussed, Tammet’s synaesthesia and savantism are questioned and the author considers whether Tammet’s remarkable talents are best explained as the result of training]

Grandin, Temple (2009) How does visual thinking work in the mind of a person with autism? A personal account. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society London B Biological Sciences. May 27th 2009  364(1522): 1437–1442. PMCID: PMC2677580 doi: 10.1098/rstb.2008.0297
[Tammet discussed as an autistic “pattern thinker”]

Harvey, Oliver (2005) He can memorise the phone book but finds shopping tricky. Meet..Brain man. Sun, The. May 12th 2005.
["Daniel speaks French, German, Spanish, Lithuanian, and Esperanto and he remembers the face of every person he has EVER met." I accessed the full text of this article through EBSCOhost]

Johnson, Richard (2005) A genius explains. Guardian. February 12th 2005.

KBC Media. (accessed 2011)
[Tammet is "case study" number 5]

Maguire, Eleanor A., Valentine, Elizabeth R., Wilding, John M. & Kapur, Narinder (2002-3) Routes to remembering: the brains behind superior memory. Nature Neuroscience. Volume 6 Number 1 January 2003 p.90-95.
Published online: 16 December 2002 | doi:10.1038/nn988
[According to info about Tammet in an article by Dr. D. Treffert published at the website of the Wisconsin Medical Society, Tammet was one of the World Memory Championship competitors studied in this study by UK researchers, including one from the Institute of Neurology in London.]

Seaberg, Maureen (2012) Daniel's Eyes of China Blue. Tasting the Universe. (blog at website of Psychology Today). May 11th 2012.

Simon, Jane (2005) We Love Telly!: PICK OF THE DAY - THE BOY WITH THE INCREDIBLE BRAIN FIVE, 9pm. Mirror, The (London, England) May 23rd 2005.
[“...unlike many savants, his gift doesn't cause him any disability...”]

Tammet, Daniel (2006) Born on a blue day: a memoir of Asperger’s and an extraordinary mind. Hodder & Stoughton. 2006.

Tammet, Daniel (2009) Embracing the wide sky: a tour across the horizons of the mind. Free Press, January 2009.

Tammet, Daniel (accessed 2009) Optimnem. 
[Tammet’s web site]

The Boy with the Incredible Brain. (2005) Focus Productions (Bristol UK)/Discovery Science Channel for five.
[An episode in the Extraordinary People doco series. Same as or similar to the 60 minute 2005 documentary Brainman. Martin Weitz  credited as director of Brainman and credited as producer of this documentary, apparently directed by Steve Gooder. Martin Weitz, Toby Trackman and Steve Gooder were nominated for the Huw Weldon Award for Specialist Factual (BAFTA) in 2005. The documentary won a Royal Television Society award in December 2005. This is from a press article about the doco: “Martin Weitz, executive producer; Charlie Parsons, executive producer for the Science Channel. Produced for the Science Channel by Focus Productions.” This  47 minute documentary about Daniel Tammet, who was not a boy in this doco but was in his 20s. Tammet displays his incredible calculating and language abilities, describes his synaesthesia, and travels to the United States to meet another famous autistic savant, Kim Peek. This documentary can be viewed through Google Videos or YouTube.]

Treffert, Darold (accessed 2011) Daniel Tammet - Brainman: "Numbers are my friends". Wisconsin Medical Society.
[This is a page about Tammet, whom the “savant syndrome” expert Dr Treffert has met. Treffert has apparently taken a quote from Tammet’s own website Optimnem which includes a claim that Tammet won a gold medal at the “‘Memory Olympics’ in London in 2000” and also a claim that Tammet was studied by researchers at the Institute of Neurology in London which was published “in the New Year 2003 edition of the highly prestigious Nature neuro-scientific magazine.” It appears that this information is no longer published at Tammet’s Optimnem website.]

Treffert, Darold A. (2010) Islands of genius: the bountiful mind of the autistic, acquired, and sudden savant. Jessica Kingsley, 2010.
[Blind Tom Wiggins, Temple Grandin, Flo and Kay Lyman, Daniel Tammet, Stephen Wiltshire, James Henry Pullen and hyperthymestic syndrome are discussed]

Wikipedia contributors (accessed 2011) Daniel Tammet. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.
[see the discussion page as well]

Wilson, Peter (2009) A savvy savant finds his voice. The Weekend Australian. January 31-February 1 2009, Inquirer p. 19.

[no longer his, but was once apparently Tammet’s website, which can be viewed in past incarnations using Internet Archive Wayback Machine ]

Internet forum postings and membership profiles from 2001-2002 which appear to be the work of Daniel Tammet
Andersson, Daniel (2001) Psychic Daniel Andersson. Psychics. Yahoo Groups. August 2nd 2001
Andersson, Daniel (2001) Doctor's Advice on the Atkins Diet. Epinions. October 19th 2001.

About World Memory Championship
Memory and Mental Calculation World Records. (accessed 2011)
[gives details of the “Memorising Names and Faces” test]

World Memory Championship (2009) Memory Sports Statistics: Daniel Corney. World Memory Championship.

About Tammet’s Pi Record
Daniel Tammet (accessed 2011) Pi World Ranking List.
[“This was long time claimed as a European Record, as Daniel recited 22,514 decimal places. Unfortunately he made his first mistake at postion 2,965...”]

Pi Memory Feat. (2008) University of Oxford.
[This page might seem like a very authoritative source, but one needs to keep in mind that another source has claimed that the event “was monitored by students from the department of mathematical sciences at Oxford Brookes University” (Lyall 2007), and that is a different university to the University of Oxford.]

Pi Record (2011) Optimnem: Daniel Tammet: the official website.

About Stephen Wiltshire
Cornwell, Jane (2010) Great cities seen by a remarkable mind’s eye. Australian. April 16th 2010 Arts p.15.

Philby, Charlotte (2009) My secret life: Stephen Wiltshire, artist, 34. Independent. January 24th 2009.

The Stephen Wiltshire Gallery

Treffert, Darold A. (2010) Islands of genius: the bountiful mind of the autistic, acquired, and sudden savant. Jessica Kingsley, 2010.
[Blind Tom Wiggins, Temple Grandin, Flo and Kay Lyman, Daniel Tammet, Stephen Wiltshire, James Henry Pullen and hyperthymestic syndrome are discussed]

Copyright Lili Marlene 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012.