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"Once we accept our limits, we go beyond them." - Albert Einstein

Jan. 18, 2023

Looking back at history through our current paradigm often leads to misinterpretations, however we know that individuals with autism have existed throughout history. It was the early 1900s before doctors began using the word “autism” and identifying it as a separate disorder, but it is easy to see the traits in individuals before that time. The important lesson we learn from seeing traits in individuals with autism throughout history is that these individuals often lived successful lives and contributed to society as a whole. We also learn humanity from the neurotypical people who supported them and believed in their skills despite the odds. Albert Einstein is likely the most famous person reported to have exhibited autistic traits including an early speech delay, lack of social skills and rigid routines. Despite his challenges, his parents taught him at home and found educational placements that worked for him. He experienced constant failure through his school years, but they never gave up on him. Finally, at university he found lifelong friends and became close to a family he boarded with during those years. It was also at university that he found his first wife, Mileva, who supported him despite his unusual habits and difficulty gaining employment. It was not until he was recognized by the scientific community that his marriage failed, and he started an affair with Elsa, whom he later married after divorcing his first wife. Elsa stood by him through the growing political unrest that resulted in his being publicly attacked and ridiculed for being a Jewish scientist. She nursed him back to health after his divorce from his first wife, was known as his “gatekeeper” for keeping people away from him as he rose to scientific stardom, supported him as his son was diagnosed with schizophrenia and committed and moved with him to the United States when it became too dangerous to stay in Europe with the rise of the Nazi movement. While Albert continued to have extra marital affairs when he was married to Elsa, she supported him until her death in 1936. While Albert Einstein did not die until 1955 at the age of 76, he was 57 years old before he stood on his own. By 1950, he became a recluse, rarely traveling and keeping to his close associates at Princeton. Albert Einstein deserves to be considered a hero to many Jews, anti-Nazis, atomic bomb activists and scientists. However, the unsung heroes are the people throughout his life who organized him, believed in him and accepted all of his weaknesses along with his strengths. Without these individuals, it is unlikely that his great accomplishments would have been possible. It matters little if he would be diagnosed with autism today, but his ability to become a functioning part of society because of the support of his various family members has changed our world forever.