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.