In considering the topic, “Did Serbian Inventor Nicola Tesla Suffer From Asperger’s Syndrome?” we need to know two things. Firstly, who was Nicola Tesla, why is he of note so that we are discussing him, and what was any symptomatology he displayed? Secondly, What is Asperger’s Syndrome and what aspects in particular would seem to identify any condition he might have had as Asperger’s Syndrome?
There are other articles on the life of Nicola Tesla that are informative and concise, but for our purposes, I will say he was what some have called a Mad Scientist. An extremely bright, absorbed electrical engineer and inventor, largely responsible for the very electricity we have in the outlets of our houses, alternating current (ac), and he developed what is called polyphase current, which is generally used by industry. By no means was he limited to developing these, but these are arguably his most important contributions to society.
Tesla was the quintessential eccentric. Some would say, in fact, he went beyond that. Even in younger years, Tesla possessed the ability to memorize entire books. He also had the ability to visualize a project before even putting it to paper. In effect, he could construct something in his mind and observe how it would run. He exercised traits that some might attribute to various personality disorders. Because in later years he tended to be dominated by a desire to do things in certain ways according to certain numbers, it has been thought he may have suffered from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. However, I maintain these may be attributed to another possibility – that of Asperger’s Syndrome.
What is Asperger’s Syndrome? Currently, AS is conceived as being a variety of autism. Unlike Kanner’s view of autism, Asperger’s involves children who start life, usually quite bright in intellect, or even brilliant (Hans Asperger described his young patients as “little professors”). There are certain aspects of their lives that are quite atypical. The senses may be heightened – particularly that of touch and of hearing – and the children tend to be non-communicative except in certain instances, when a topic they are obsessive about, is discussed. Then sufferers may be ebullient in their verbalizations, “bending your ear” on the topic. Usually the subject is one of a technical nature. In matters involving humans, they may show a complete or nearly complete lack of empathy.
It is well-known that some sufferers become fascinated with orderliness. They often will line things up, neatly, in a certain order.
I maintain that this sounds incredibly like Tesla. Tesla would neatly stack a prescribed number of linen napkins at each meal. He had an unbelievably heightened sense of hearing. Nicola Tesla said, in his autobiography, “It was here [in 1880] that I suffered the complete breakdown of the nerves to which I have referred. What I experienced during the period of the illness surpasses all belief. My sight and hearing were always extraordinary. I could clearly discern objects in the distance when others saw no trace of them. Several times in my boyhood I saved the houses of our neighbours from fire by hearing the faint crackling sounds which did not disturb their sleep, and calling for help. In 1899, when I was past forty and carrying on my experiments in Colorado, I could hear very distinctly thunderclaps at a distance of 550 miles. My ear was thus over thirteen times more sensitive, yet at that time I was, so to speak, stone deaf in comparison with the acuteness of my hearing while under the nervous strain.”
Why might I, the author of this brief article, think Nicola Tesla and Asperger’s Syndrome go together? Perhaps I am putting myself too much into the picture. I suffered in the same fashion as Tesla. My hearing led to great difficulties for me. My sense was so heightened, once, when I absent-mindedly left my wristwatch in my room at bedtime, it drove me to distraction. I took the watch across the room and put it under piles of clothing in my dresser, and returned to bed. The ticking was loud and clear to me, and I had to get up again and remove the offending watch entirely. My son has Asperger’s Syndrome, and I have come to realize that I apparently was not left unscathed by the same condition.
Oh, memory? While my short-term memory is atrocious, once I told someone to give read me a list of eighteen digits, then to repeat them slowly once, and I would say them back to him – backwards. I succeeded.
Can You Answer?
So am I an authority? No. I am a chemist not a doctor. But there are others out there who may be willing to consider my suggestion. If you are one of those, would you be willing to look into the matter so you can come to at least a likely medical answer to the question, “Did Famed Inventor Nicola Tesla Suffer From Asperger’s Syndrome?”