Famous people with autism

So as the number of individuals with autism and Aspergers continue to increase and they become a greater part of the public conversation regarding research and treatment, one question that comes up frequently is “what famous people have Autism”?

Well, to most of those familiar with this disorder, the idea of someone famous with Aspergers would almost be considered an oxymoron as the word “famous” usually conjures up images of someone who is always in the spotlight and likes going to social engagements or just hanging out with their friends.  For those with Autism however, nothing could be further from the truth.

One contributing factor to this is that unfortunately for many of those how do or might have Autism, it is something that can easily be misunderstood and for doctors it can also be misdiagnosed. In some situations, it can go undetected as late as into adulthood and for even a few, it may only come through their own perseverance to understand themselves. So why is that?

For starters, unlike many others who have autism, people with Asperger’s rarely display a delay in either language or cognitive development. So why’ll they may have a lack of social skills, they’re ability to communicate can still help them get through their day-to-day routine.

In addition to that, if Aspergers is difficult to diagnose for doctors, then it might stand to reason that this would also be true for the public. For those in the limelight, like those in television, radio or the movies for example, perception is something that is important to them and thus something they strive to control when they appear in the public eye.

Putting that aside though, if we’re able to remove the cameras, makeup and the like, who are some of the famous contemporary people of today who have Autism? One footnote to add here is that for many of these people; their diagnosis is based on self evidence and in fact not medically proven.

Famous people with Autism

Photo courtesy of Kevin Dooley

With that said, this group includes:

  • Paul Allen (entrepreneur)
  • Dan Aykroyd (actor)
  • Bob Dylan (musician)
  • Bill Gates (entrepreneur)
  • Temple Grandin (author)
  • Al Gore (politician)
  • Daryl Hannah (actress)
  • Alfred Hitchcock (director)
  • Garrison Keillor (public radio)
  • Clay Marzo (surfer)
  • Craig Nicholls (musician)
  • Keith Olberman (sportscaster)
  • Tim Page (author)
  • Oliver Sacks (author)
  • Charles Schultz (cartoonist)
  • James Taylor (musician)
  • Andy Warhol (artist)
  • Robin Williams (comedian)

In addition, there are also many historical people that are thought to have had Aspergers and they include:

  • Jane Austen (writer)
  • Ludwig Van Beethoven (musician)
  • Thomas Edison (inventor)
  • Albert Einstein (scientist)
  • Henry Ford (auto maker)
  • Benjamin Franklin  (politician)
  • Abraham Lincoln (politician)
  • Henry Thoreau (writer/philosopher)
  • Mark Twain (writer)

In many ways we may never truly know how many other famous people may have Asperger’s because as mentioned previously, those under the spotlight tend to prefer to control what the public does or doesn’t see in regards to themselves? That said, what are some of the traits that these people exhibit that lead to that conclusion?

Some of these individuals, like Albert Einstein, may have had language delays as a child. Others such as Bill Gates, were unable to develop peer relationships and still some, like Benjamin Franklin’s, had an obsession or even compulsion with order. All of these are examples of characteristics common to those with Autism.

Despite the challenges that Autism (and even Asperger’s) present though, some of these people show or have shown us that one can overcome these obstacles and lead a happy and rewarding life. In fact, we see that by simply combining some of their unique traits such as their ability to focus or strong perseverance along with their strong academics, they have shown that perhaps Autism can be a blessing whereas many may see it as a weakness.

So what do you think, are there any we have missed. Leave us a comment below and let us know your thoughts.



Mark Blakey

Mark Blakey is the founder of the Aspergers Test Site, after a successful career working in IT Mark wanted to share what he learned from his own diagnosis. He is the author of "Emotional Mastery for Adults with Aspergers" and "An Introduction to Aspergers Syndrome". Having received lots of questions from parents with autistic children, Mark went on to found Autism Parenting Magazine. The magazine has become an essential resource aimed at improving the quality of life for families effected by Autism. Its a monthly publication containing lots of helpful articles to help develop social skills, manage challenging behavior and improve communication.

  • Kate Merriman says:

    I would have thought Steve Jobs was a contender too – own agenda,obsessive,perfection to detail etc…

  • rimsha says:

    I Found out i have it too, :/ I really didn’t expect it, I thought I was just weird :/

  • Andree says:

    The lovely Craig Nicholls, of the Australian band the Vines, has Aspergers.

  • Tejas says:

    You seem to have missed the aspie who ushered in the age of electricity – Nicola Tesla

    • Andrew says:

      I think so too. Brilliant man. He was not obsessed with money. Thomas Edison (obsessed with money) took advantage of him and Tesla did not pursue litigation. Marconi was known as the father of radio for decades, he also had taken from Tesla. It was not until the mid 1990’s that Tesla, sans fanfare, was given recognition as leader in radio development.

  • Marcin Lewandowski says:

    I think this list is pretty comprehensive, but what about Michael Jackson. He was notoriously bad with relationships and some even suspected, but never proven that he was a pedofile. Not that THAT has anything to do with Aspergers, however, not KNOWING you are and what the heck is wrong with you may lead you to some mental deviations, MAY being the operative word.

    I recently found out I was Aspergers on top off already having been ADHD. My life had pretty much been one huge failure. I am academically and intellectually top notch but my social abilities are few. I never had real friends, managed to have a girlfriend I alienated after 2 weeks and somehow have gotten married but now I have destroyed this too and we are on a brink of divirce. I have constant problems staying on a job and misread people all the time. I am a ridiculously easy prey for online schemers and I can’t get into any religious or spiritual circles cause I get bored easily and stop attending. I feel like maybe 2-3 people have understood me and everyone else thought me harmless but useless, too. I have had multiple suicidal attempts and struggle with severe depression on a regular basis. When I take meds I adopt them so quickly I basically become a depressed pill popper and they keep increasing dosages my body overcomes in no time.

    Bottom line: I don’t know about a blessing but I have yet to see it so. To me it is a curse, it has destroyed so many things in life I held dear and hurt so many people. I wish I never had it. Like Xmen 3 where they had that antidote to unmutant you, I would have been FIRST in line and took a double dose just in case. I have severe self esteem issues for, if you can’t keep a job or develop a career and suck at dating, what else is there to live for?

    • Joe says:

      I can relate to everything to have said here. Turn to philosophy. It will lead you to an inner peace that I know now. It’s hard to get bored studying it because there are so many questions to ponder and it helps cope with the stress and anxiety we aspies face daily. Have a good day or night!

    • jod falconbridge says:

      Your post has me crying inside. I want to encourage you to look up Indigo Children and maybe learning the spiritual side of this and life itself will help to be able to learn to find balance in your life. God is love and we are born in the light of that love. We need to look at people as incredibly unique individuals and we need to stop with this crazy “societal norm”. We are spiritual beings not robots for someones factory or army!

    • Lin says:

      Marcin, your purpose is so much more than job, career, and even girlfriend or spouse. As is said, be your own best friend and you take care of you, your heart. Like yourself, no matter what. As Joe here said earlier, philosophy will take you in many great directions and open doors for you to find out who and what you really are. I hope that you are hurting less, since I’m writing this in September ’13.

    • Trudy says:

      Hi Marcin, I just read your message and I can really relate to how you feel. I have only just recently found out that my entire family either have Aspergers or are somewhere on the spectrum of Autism. Both my husband and I have it and have passed this on to both our daughters. Now we understand why we have been such a disfunctional family for years. My husband and I are divorced. He’s 72 and I’m 52…my daughters are 26 and 29. I have felt like the past 30 years of my life has been one long train wreck. I feel differently now…relieved to finally understand who I am. Despite my struggles throughout life…some of my quirkiness has actually been something I’ve been able to embrace and like about myself. I know I’m different. In a world that’s obsessed with being perfect and “normal”… is it such a bad thing to be different? I think not. It all comes down to perception.

      Marcin, how old are you? If you already know you have autism…you are way ahead…there is always hope. I think it’s just a matter of finding the strategies to make autism work for you. I don’t mean to simplify. Anyway, I guess I just wanted to let you know you are not alone.

    • Stephen says:

      Hi Marcin. I read your comment and it was so poignant that I felt like crying. I could have written that. I am on the brink(again) of success and failure. I have been to University to study and am now trying to put that into effect by starting my own business. It’s sink or swim here but because I was focused on this project I know realise that if I can’t pull it of then I have nothing and no one to turn to. A psychiatric hospital? Better than nothing I suppose. I feel suicidal oftejn but it’s from fear of failure rather than depression. I’m trying to incorporate training and teaching in a safe and understanding environment for Aspergers sufferers within my company but am being stymied by the very charities who say they are support groups for Aspergers sufferers! I have faith in my abilities and committment but little else. feel free to contact me and maybe I can help. Stephen

    • lulu says:

      Michael jackson? Clearly, u r no Einstein. Aspergers have poor coordination. So, no moonwalking. Also, we r asexual like sponges. That means sex we can take or leave. Not pedofiles or sexual deviants.

      • David B says:

        lulu – your comment is ignorant as it assumes we all present with same symptoms. Not all Aspies have poor coordination. Many are successful parents.

      • Kim says:

        Michael was not hypersexual or deviant. Just the fact that his innocent stance baffled others is evidence that he was unaware of how the world in general is quite perverted. The women he married were very strong women who supported his innocence in that arena.

    • Stephen Mackenzie says:


      I just want to make a difference – and hopefully these words and sentiments do for you and others also – and simply that make a difference.

      Firstly hand-up I cant truely understand what you have faced but i can be empathetic and appreciate where your comming from having experianced similar aspects

      You should amazing strength of character in reaching put with your storey. I can relate to much of what your write,  id like to show despite what you’ve experienced you continue to survive and there is boundless opportunity to seize to break the cycle.

      Ive learned at times my life is a disaster area – but learned to love the adventure off recognising it can be a disaster but to bounce back and say – ok whats next.

      There are many reasons to to feel that aspyrgers is all our wows and miss all the wonderful things or even one special thing it give us.

      I cant do small talk and dont get some humour but seek to see the best in everyone. I try to talk to three new people everyday and maintain social eye contact.

      There are many many reasons to give up but we just need one to keep going – to grasp and hold onto what ever this is.

      Im terrible at time management, flunked at school and in some jobs but found my vocation at technical college and uni. Ive been canned at work, forced into voluntary redundancy, harrassed and bullied, discriminated and humiliated to having confidence stomped on time and time again but ive also done very well in post school education, won awards, informed government policy, consistently promoted and have an exciting new job offer as a full technical director leading a young team. 

      So i dont let it get me down when things are a disaster,  ive learned to find my own inspiration and self determination im good at what i do and will continue to strive to make a difference. 

      If your life is a dissaster – say ok and find yourself. Find one thing your good at and enjoy the path too this. Find what makes life worth living – nurture it cherish it or simply enjoy the path to finding it.

      If at first you dont suceed try try try and please try and try again. 

      Why shouldnt you be happy and have a productive life – your part way there in accepting you are aspyrgers, whats not working and trying to find what works – this is a powereful determination to keep going hold onto this.

      Your also seeking medical and other support – again demonstrating a powerful drive to what you need and what works for you.

      There are many many many people who will miss interprest  aspyrgers as a dissability and in my case dyslexcia and depression also – others see this as compounding dissabilites.  In time and with the wonderful insight of others and what ive learned myslef i have learned as i adapt and become comfortable in myself. 

      Recognise also a wonderful ability and diferentiator and gives me excepional abilities – no im not a superhero but to my kids im a hero as i care and protect them and a good guy fighting to good causes, to my partner a load of hard work and boundless aspie traits  but a kind man at 42 i met my sole mate and to those i mentor or  talk openly about my dyslexic and more recently aspyrgers inspirational or motivational 

      Remember i flunked at school and hated public speaking but discovered im good at this and have presented internationally. 

      Relationships can be dissasterious, also hard work but wonderful too. 

      Why cant we be happy? but first we must be happy in our self – either having the perfecf life, partner, job home etc – heck if dosent matter if your aspyrgers, dissabiles or abled and nurotypical – some never find this illusive happyness or what they percieve as happyness true or simply imaginary or unobtainable. 

      The key is being kind and comfortable in your self. then use this to build a productive life and better able to ride out the ups and downs.  

      Give yourself a break when its down and enjoy the up moments for however long or brief these are. Cherish them and saviour them and build upon them until the downs are brief and replaced with joy. 

      My lifes a disaster but i can better flatten our the downs and enjoy the ups more and more. Id didt get CBT and anti-depressants drove me into the pit of disspair but it lead me to an understanding of myself. 

      To accept some people have a different focus, whether, self, money, career or something else and me isnt exaclty at the hart of this. 

      Easy for me to say today, just now and at this moment as im up –  eventhough its been rough over xams and back to a dreadful job and i feel like crud today with flu – i have much to be up about.

      Its my life – disaster or not – ok whats next is my call to battle the challenged of life and my war mantra is as follows:
      Yeatseday was diplorable
      Today was disspocable
      Tomorrows looking dreadful
      But tomorrow
      Tomorrow can always be delightful.

      So when im down i make a determined focus to make my life delightful. 

      I have choice and oppertunity, despite the dissaters, to take control of my life and make tomorrow delightful.

      If somethings not working out, please give it a best try and then learn to move on to what works – find your element, your calling, your sole mate and cause in life or simply to understand and make a difference to your life which as your article has doen – reached out and toched others.

      Its a new year lets all make it a good aspyrgers year.


      • Peter Ryland says:

        That is unnecessarily hard to read. It looks jokey, but is it? I am cautious about saying this, but you claim dyslexia, yet do not bother to spell check anything you write.
        Why do you feel the need to amplify a disability? I am sure I must speak for very many aspies who deplore bad spelling and grammar in that I find it completely ruins any message you are trying to promulgate. Please do not leap to blame me for some sort of prejudice……………..it is my true and honest reaction.

      • Peter Ryland says:

        Chris Packham. He is doing a stint on radio 4 each morning this week.

  • regine says:

    what about the artist Stephen Wiltshire – autistic artist who can accurately draw cityscapes eniterly from memory?

  • Desert Dog says:

    Did I not, through one of your previous postings, see Elvis mentioned… It is interesting to see some of my favorite people listed as Aspie, i.e Einstein & Dr. Franklin… It was Ben, who loved his air baths, who got me naked & enjoying the persistent Mojave winds… Knowing others have dealt with this malady & led sucessful or maybe even happy lives is encouraging, but what I have gained through your site & my, just arrived, “Emotional Mastery” outweighs the knowledge that Bob Dylan is weird just like me (I unfortunately did not receive the man’s genius, but, I’m certain, scored far lower on the spectrum scale) I love & appreciate this site !!!

  • Rosie says:

    Thank you so much for this site. It is really hard being weird but now, at 61 and just self-diagnosing I am starting to understand my life and see my weirdness is maybe something quite good. If I get famous I will write again and add myself to this list. (Just joking)

    • Lin says:

      Hi Rosie! I’m 65 and just discovering the name for my quirky weirdness! The depths of depression, etc. are over for me, and now I am just enjoying being childlike, quirky and weird. Actually, I think I’m kind of interesting and delightful! Too bad for the folks that miss seeing that! LOL. 🙂

      • Vicki says:

        Hi Rosie and Lin, So great to see women “my age” (I’m 62) here. I just realized in the past month I’m an aspie and what a relief that has been to describe my quirkiness.

        • Vicki, what I don’t understand is why more and more people like you and me are being diagnosed with Aspergers….I’m 59 and just learning why I am the way I am….

          • Barbara says:

            Hello! I am 63 myself. When we were kids or young adults the diagnosis didn’t even exist yet. Also, it has long been seen as a disorder of young children, especially boys. It’s just being learned how adults learn to cope with it, and how very differently it manifests in females. I can only say I’m grateful that finally I know what’s “wrong” with me, and the descriptions explain ALL of my life.

        • Barbara says:

          Yes! Relief beyond belief! 😀

          • Sandy Arguijo says:

            I am 52 and just found out that I have Aspergers. It has really helped me to understand my entire life. There is something that I am proud of…my ability to relate to children of all ages. Children have always adored me and I wonder if this is a common trait with other aspies?

            • Anna says:

              I am, at last, and at 60 just discovering the aspie in me! I’ve spent my entire life knowing something about me was different. I spent countless years reading, researching and yes, being misdiagnosed. Nothing before seemed to fit. Funny how I started on this research trying to understand the man I’d become involved with better. I took the test and scored a 45! Took it another day just to be sure and scored a 47! It feels less troublesome to know but honestly it isn’t helping with my very few relationships. I have but 2 friends that I’ve had for ages and family is a real challenge. Oh, and the man? Well…

              • Anne Coles says:

                I’m 63 and live in the UK. I totally agree with everything said above. Knowing why I have always felt not quite part of the group, or having parents/teachers/work colleagues etc who were always saying “stop playing up/stop moaning about having to join in/stop being so difficult etc. Why I’ve never had proper relationships – not counting my 30 years with my husband who has now sadly passed away – which has brought about a whole load of other difficulties in coping.

            • Ali Asreco says:

              Right. The same thing counts for me. I’m 60 and relate directly to small kids. As soon as they are 12 to older I do not understand them anymore though…

  • Karen says:

    Three years ago I fell in love with a wonderful man, he is 49 years old. I new there was something different with him and felt the need to help him.
    Four months ago I got him to do the aspergers test online and scored 37. This was the best thing the understanding it gave us.

    He made an appointment at a specialist ASD (Autistic Spectrum Disorder) clinic spent half a day there and was given his diagnoses.
    Life is much easier now for both of us its the understanding awareness he is simply wired different.
    Our relationship has grown stronger and we are both grateful for this Aspergers test site.

    • Peter Ryland says:

      Where did he go? I asked my doc to make me an appointment 4 months ago. Still no date!
      I also got 37. I knew my son was geeky and he was confirmed ASD but he only got 32. My 37 was a shock!

  • jo91150 says:

    Well,THAT explains a lot. You didn’t mention genius as a side-affect. It helps us cope to some degree over time.

  • Alicia Mitchell says:

    I would like to contribute Jonathan Swift to the list of famous historical figures who may be on the autism spectrum. Read his biography. There are details of his life and examples of his unpublished humor that are convincing.

  • Alicia Mitchell says:

    Also would like to add: Mark Zuckerberg and Thomas Jefferson.

    • Blodeuwedd says:

      I tend to think Mark Zuckerberg is faking it. He lies sooo easily and frequently. We can’t do that easily and consistently.

  • Chris says:

    Gary “Cars” Numan is an Aspie too.

    • Barbara Kirk says:

      I remember reading an interview where Gary Numan said he didn’t get diagnosed properly until he was about 30.

  • Pat Valente says:

    Are many people aware that Al Gore might have not been good enough to become president of the U.S. back in the year 2000??

    • Barbara says:

      I think that people described him often as “wooden” and that put them off. I have no trouble seeing him as an Aspie, now that I think of it.

  • graham keeton says:

    who really cares about celebrities and famous people with autism some of the more recent ones should not be on this list as I think they are just making money out of the fact they have autism

  • Lucy says:

    How about William Faulkner? I read about time he spent in Hollywood – he was invited to a party there and went upstairs, climbed out the window, slid down the drain pipe and escaped! How many of us can relate to that?

  • esn says:

    I do not know.. But what about Tom Criuise?

  • Rosalyn says:

    I just wanted to add two more famous people who also probably had Asperger’s Syndrome: the amazing scientist, Sir Isaac Newton, and the sensitive, gentle poet, Emily Dickinson.

  • Danielle says:

    I’m surprised to see Thomas Edison on this list, he is described as a shrewd and socially adept businessman. In contrast, Tesla is not on the list? He struggled his whole life with social relationships, obsessive interests, etc.

  • Art Van Houten says:

    many superheros and X-men are clearly aspies

  • James Trogman says:

    This is not helpful and is not relevant. Most of the names have not been diagnosed, so it is also pointless and misleading. It is somewhat similar to people with inferiority complexes drawing up lists of great Swiss, Scotsmen, Italians, Jews, Blacks, or whatever. It is as though the qualities of those people can be attributed to us by association. Each individual stands or falls by his own merits. We could as easily draw up a list of criminals with Asperger’s. Ah, let me see, I can fish a number of names out of thin air, let’s say Jack the Ripper for starters. Yes, and Hitler, definitely.

    • Ol' Grey Ghost says:

      Hitler was obsessed with the limelight and considered himself destined for greatness so he should be considered more of a sociopath genius (yes, his I.Q. was that high). Another historical figure that should be considered is Gichin Funakoshi, the father of modern Karate. He was an incredibly humble man by all accounts and had some trouble socializing with strangers. He was also an asthmatic which has a link with Asperger’s Syndrome…

    • Faith says:

      I agree. Love the last part about criminals. Why must people constantly compare themselves to others for acceptance. Most famous people look to what sets them apart and use it to change the world. Aspergers may provide a gift like an intense focus on a subject that allows a person to use knowledge to change the world. But we should not focus on how we compare to others to feel better. We must understand ourselves and what we love and use it to change the world. The problem is the world wants people to conform to standards of normal behavior to be accepted, but no one person is normal we are all different with one unique DNA.

  • Eliza Mariah says:

    I appreciate what you are trying to do but I have issues with your introduction. You say “Well, to most of those familiar with this disorder, the idea of someone famous with Aspergers would almost be considered an oxymoron as the word “famous” usually conjures up images of someone who is always in the spotlight and likes going to social engagements or just hanging out with their friends. For those with Autism however, nothing could be further from the truth.” This implies that aspies don’t like just hanging out with their friends. You say nothing could be further from the truth. Really? I would say the opposite is true. I would say most aspies would love to just hang out with their friends.

    Another misleading statement is “One footnote to add here is that for many of these people; their diagnosis is based on self evidence and in fact not medically proven”. I think it’s likely that most of the names you list here are NOT based on self evidence – most of them never even heard of Autism or Aspergers. As for medically proven – all ASD diagnosis are based on the judgement of the diagnoser – it’s not something that can ever be medically proven, except possibly in an autopsy.

  • Sebastian says:

    Another one to the list… The super unique guitarist Allan Holdsworth.

  • Laura R. says:

    It is all well and good to know that successful, well-known people are willing to share that they have Autism or Asperger’s.  It would be interesting to know when these people knew it for themselves and when it was revealed publicly. 

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