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Charles Darwin had Autism, Leading Psychiatrist Claims

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Darwin likely had Asperger's syndrome, a form of Autism related to creativity and originality, Telegraph reports

Charles Darwin, the brilliant Englishman who wrote On the Origin of Species and created the thoery of natural selection, likely suffered from a behavioral disorder, according to Prof. Michael Fitzgerald of Dublin's Trinity College.

A story in the Telegraph explains how Darwin -- who celebrated his 200th birthday on Feb. 12 --  had an "extraordinary attention to detail but had difficulties with social interaction."

Fitzgerald told the Royal College of Psychiatrists' Faculty of Academic Psychiatry on Wednesday that Darwin was probably suffering from Asperger's syndrome, the story says.

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"It is suggested that the same genes that produce autism and Asperger's syndrome are also responsible for great creativity and originality," Prof Fitzgerald told the Telegraph. "Asperger's syndrome gave Darwin the capacity to hyperfocus, the extra capacity for persistence, the enormous ability to see detail that other people missed, the endless energy for a lifetime dedication to a narrow task, and the independence of mind so critical to original research."

Fitzgerald continued: "Darwin was a solitary child – as many people with Asperger's syndrome are, and his emotional immaturity and fear of intimacy extended to adulthood. He avoided socialising and took long solitary walks, walking the same route daily. He was a compulsive letter writer, but these were almost devoid of social chat.

"Darwin had a massive capacity to observe, to introspect and to analyse. From adolescence he was a massive systematiser, initially of insects and other specimens which he catalogued. He had a tremendously visual brain. He spent eight years studying barnacles, and wrote books on his observations of earthworms and even his own children. He was a rather obsessive-compulsive and ritualistic man.

"Creativity is extremely complex, and so far no theory or model of brain function has been able to explain it fully. But I hope that future progress in understanding the basis of autism may lead to a better understanding of autistic creativity and creativity in general."

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