Einstein and Newton showed signs of #autism

They were certainly geniuses, but did Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton also have autism? According to autism expert Simon Baron-Cohen, they might both have shown many signs of Asperger syndrome, a form of the condition that does not cause learning difficulties.

Although he admits that it is impossible to make a definite diagnosis for someone who is no longer living, Baron-Cohen says he hopes this kind of analysis can shed light on why some people with autism excel in life, while others struggle.

Autism is heritable, and there are clues that the genes for autism are linked to those that confer a talent for grasping complex systems - anything from computer programs to musical techniques. Mathematicians, engineers and physicists, for instance, tend to have a relatively high rate of autism among their relatives.

Baron-Cohen, who is based at Cambridge University, and mathematician Ioan James of Oxford University assessed the personality traits of Newton and Einstein to see if they exhibited three key symptoms of Asperger syndrome: obsessive interests, difficulty in social relationships, and problems communicating.

Newton seems like a classic case. He hardly spoke, was so engrossed in his work that he often forgot to eat, and was lukewarm or bad-tempered with the few friends he had. If no one turned up to his lectures, he gave them anyway, talking to an empty room. He had a nervous breakdown at 50, brought on by depression and paranoia.