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Genius Genes

Genius Genes 9987

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Genius Genes
How Asperger Talents Changed the World

In Genius Genes, Michael Fitzgerald, a pioneering researcher and clinician in the field of autism, and his coauthor, Brendan O’Brien, claim that aspects of Asperger syndrome may be advantageous in evoking new thinking, creativity and inventiveness, and that this may be “the difference that makes all the difference” in terms of human evolution. Asperger syndrome is often portrayed as a negative phenomenon – a kind of affliction or curse – but if it was an integral part of the make-up and mindset of Newton, Darwin, and Einstein, arguably science’s three most important personalities, it can clearly be seen in some respects as a gift to humanity. Indeed, it may be no exaggeration to say that Asperger intelligence has shaped the world as we know it. 

Genius Genes develops and expands a controversial thesis that Professor Fitzgerald has placed in the public domain in recent years – the attainments and failures of many famous historical figures were the fruit of an autistic mind-style, and this ought to color the way we approach autism today. Building on the vision outlined in previous books by Fitzgerald, the authors claim that geniuses are largely “born and not made,” and that the role of the environment in engendering creativity has often been grossly exaggerated. Their approach is to emphasize the power of nature (the expression of the individual’s genetic endowment), as opposed to nurture, in the genesis of genius.

After an introductory overview, the main part of the book presents case studies of the lives of 21 famous individuals, which weigh the evidence that their talents and their achievement can be properly understood only in the light of Asperger syndrome. Subjects of the case studies include political/military figures (Thomas Jefferson, Thomas ‘Stonewall’ Jackson, Viscount Montgomery and Charles de Gaulle), mathematicians (Archimedes, Charles Babbage, Paul Erdös, Norbert Wiener, David Hilbert, and Kurt Gödel), scientists (Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein, Nikola Tesla, Henry Cavendish and Gregor Mendel), writers (Gerard Manley Hopkins and H. G. Wells), plus maverick aviator Charles Lindbergh, psychologist John Broadus Watson and sexologist Alfred C. Kinsey.

This book’s chief importance, then, lies in challenging – from a novel perspective – a widespread overwhelmingly negative perception of autism and Asperger syndrome. It demonstrates that many persons with autism have lived rich, complex and productive lives, and that their intelligence contributed hugely to shaping the world that we now know.


Brendan O'Brien is a freelance writer and editor with an interest in autism. He lives in County Cavan, Ireland, with his wife and young-adult children.

Michael Fitzgerald is the first professor of child and adolescent psychiatry in Ireland. His special interest is Asperger Syndrome. A clinical and research consultant to the Irish Society for Autism and an honorary member of the Northern Ireland Institute of Human Relations, he has a doctorate in autism and has been a researcher in this field since 1973. He trained at St. Patrick's Hospital, Dublin; Chicago Medical School; and The Maudsley Hospital and the National Hospital for Nervous Diseases, London. He has clinically diagnosed more than 1,500 individuals with autism and Asperger Syndrome, and has served on the Government Task Force on Autism and the Family. He has contributed to international journals on autism and is the author of over 120 publications, including 16 books.

ISBN: 9781931282444

Reviews (4)

LENEXA, Kansas
June 02 2016
Customer Review: John Morris - This book is an "eye opener" for me. It helps me to understand why I do some of the things the way I do them and why I interact with people the way that I do.
LENEXA, Kansas
June 02 2016
Customer Review: Fred - It takes a very original thinker to see a relationship between autistic children and Newton.Aspergers Syndrome,the missink link between Autism and Genius has mysteriosly been absent from the professional literature in the US untill recently.THe field was dominated for too long by Bruno Bettelheim and supporters,who denied a genetic basis and gave us instead Freudian fairy tales.The next book should seek to explain why the public is only now learning science that was first published in Germany in 1940. THis is a fascinating groundbreaking book.
LENEXA, Kansas
June 02 2016
Customer Review: Teddy Dover - Genius Genes is an interesting review of a number of intellectuals, generals and politicians that may have met the criteria of Aspergers Syndrome or Aspergers Disorder. The brief biographies are concise and informative using some of the best biographies written about these individuals and present the evidence that the authors want to use to prove their position on the individual's diagnosis. Their thesis that Asperger's is one way for the emergence of creative and gifted thinking is proven if you accept that the highlighted individuals were Aspergers. This book helps supply information regarding my interest in people who are creative, and those who are genius or near genius. It helps explain some of their quirks and what makes them interesting, and most of us have met someone that meets this definition. Despite loving the book, I found the book repetitive at times. I also had some difficulty with the authors' overly frequent comparison of the individuals highlighted with philosophier Ludwig Wittgenstein. I found these frequent comparsions very distracting, and I felt if he was such a perfect case of Aspergers that a chapter should have been added and devoted to him. So distracting were these comparsions for me that I nearly rated the book as a 4 verse the 5 I gave it. This book could be used as the basis for the belief that being 'normal' is not 'holy grail' for humanity. What is 'normal' anyway? Who wants to be mundane/normal anyway -- especially considering some of the crack pots who are trying to define what 'normal' is -- see the section on behaviorist J. B. Watson and the implications of his social engineering views to see my point?
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