If It’s True that Mozart Was Autistic – Is That Interesting?

Speaking at a meeting of the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ Academic Psychiatry conference, Michael Fitzgerald, Professor of Psychiatry at Trinity College, Dublin, said that the relationship between creativity and psychiatric disorder is not a myth, arguing that the characteristics linked to autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) were the same as those associated with creative genius.

He argued that the link between ASDs, creativity and genius were caused by common genetic causes.

His examples were Isaac Newton, Mozart (pictured here), Jefferson and Einstein.

It is self-evident that a finding of this sort, if it is generally accepted, is of great scholarly interest. But, surely, to the general public it is merely a curiosity. It contributes nothing to the understanding of the place these men occupy in human history.

The connection between genius and disease (rather than a condition like autism) is far more mysterious. Would Schubert, Schumann and Hugo Wolf have become geniuses if they had not been infected by syphilis? Would Nietzsche have become one of the great thinkers of the late nineteenth century if he had been healthy?

And those of us who have not (yet) been infected, do we have a chance?

Now those are interesting questions to be put to Professor Michael Fitzgerald.

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4 responses to “If It’s True that Mozart Was Autistic – Is That Interesting?

  1. David Schatzky

    My hunch is that many artists would not have achieved greatness without the assistance of ASD’s, which gave them a greater capacity and a greater need and desire to transform feelings and passions metaphorically, as opposed to dealing with and responding to the world and other people in more conventional ways which were not available to them. However, I don’t believe syphilis produces great art. Bad relationships might. Syphilis, probably not. If you want to achieve immortality in art, pray for an ASD not an STD.

  2. Fred Langan

    David is right on syphilis.

  3. The problem is that one has to be born with an ASD, while one can work on acquiring an STD. However, the latter is more likely to contribute to mortality than to immortality.

  4. Alan Pearson

    It seems to me that we live in an age when even normality is regarded as an illness. Evidently, to every health professional, wielding his or her professional hammer, every human peculiarity is a symptomatic nail. If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it’s obviously marketing. By the way, are you SURE you don’t have B.O. and/or halitosis?