Ills Of The Illustrious: Post Hoc Diagnoses Of Historical Figures

Mighty_Emperor

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SB: Thanks for that - I was going to post something on this and forgot so this came in very handy (I've also merged it with this thread as it fits in perfectly). Anyway its:

Mozart behaving badly

James McConnel
Wednesday September 1, 2004
The Guardian

I'm not the first person to suggest Mozart suffered from Tourette's syndrome. The idea was mooted by a Scandinavian scientist who based his theory on the scatological tone of Mozart's letters. But, as a composer and somebody with Tourette's, I have a unique perspective. What I set out to do was to reassess the documentary evidence, as well as to analyse the music. Was there something there that only somebody with Tourette's would recognise?

Tourette's is often misunderstood. It is not just a matter of uncontrolled swearing; only about 20% of sufferers exhibit this symptom. Tourette's is a "cluster" disorder: because it is made up of separate symptoms, no two Touretters are the same. It consists of physical twitches, vocal twitches, obsessive-compulsive disorder and attention deficit hyperactive disorder. You can control the obsessions and compulsions for a time, but eventually they have to find an outlet, like an itch that has to be scratched.

Mozart had numerous obsessions: clocks, cats, shoe sizes, his wife's safety - he had an unnatural fear of letting her out of the house. There is evidence of him twitching, grimacing, tapping his feet together and behaving oddly. As Peter Shaffer noted in Amadeus, he loved diversions and was always the life and soul of the party; he enjoyed rhymes, silliness and playing with words; he liked jokes and sometimes went too far, in the way that Tourette's sufferers often do.

The language in his letters was sometimes filthy. In the 18th century, filthiness was largely sanctioned, but Mozart took it further than even his broad-minded contemporaries could accept. Not only did he write disgusting letters but he wrote disgusting songs, often set to the most beautiful music. That is an indication of the tension between chaos and control in Mozart's music.

When Mozart was born, counterpoint and fugue were going out of fashion. The great courts of Europe wanted nice, fluffy, tuneful dance music. But Mozart rejected the less complex, more formalised musical forms with which he had grown up and looked back to the fugues of Bach and Handel. Fugue and counterpoint became an obsession and he reinvented them: the contrapuntal complexity of his six "Haydn" quartets baffled his friends.

Fugues appear to be chaotic but are rigidly and beautifully structured. Mozart loved to write passages that broke all the rules, yet needed to keep them within a tight overall musical structure. I can't prove Mozart had Tourette's, but it would explain a great deal about the way he composed and the direction his music took. He would have been a genius anyway, but I like to think Tourette's gave a distinctive flavour to his musical processes.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/arts/features/story/0,,1294717,00.html
 

Mighty_Emperor

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Did Walleye Make Rembrandt a Master?

September 15, 2004 02:02:03 PM PDT , HealthDay

By Randy Dotinga
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 15 (HealthDayNews) -- A vision problem just might explain the rich talent of one of history's greatest painters.

According to a new report, the renowned Dutch master Rembrandt was walleyed, a condition that possibly boosted his ability to depict a three-dimensional reality on a two-dimensional canvas.

"Stereo vision," a kind of depth perception, is limited in people whose eyes are poorly aligned. Misaligned eyes are fairly common, and people often don't realize they're lacking full depth perception. In Rembrandt, his apparent walleyes -- which look away from each other -- "would have made him better at seeing" from a painter's point of view, explained Harvard Medical School neurobiologist Margaret Livingstone, who co-authored a study on Rembrandt's vision.

"When you learn how to draw, you have to learn how to flatten the world onto a canvas," Livingstone said. "That's a skill, and it's easier if you have poor stereo vision."

Livingstone, who studies the effects of vision on art, has theorized that a lack of depth perception helps artists get a better handle on the challenge of converting the three-dimensional world into two-dimensional paintings. Unconsciously, artists may know this, Livingstone said: Consider the stereotypical image of a painter with one eye closed -- limiting depth perception -- and a raised thumb.

An estimated 10 percent of people lack "stereo vision," Livingstone said. Some are visibly walleyed or cross-eyed (meaning their eyes look toward each other). "Stereo vision requires your eyes to be lined up, to have the computations happening between the corresponding parts of the two eyes." But people without it can still see depth. Stereo vision "is one of those things that is helpful, but it's not essential."

According to Livingstone, people often don't realize they're affected until they try to look at stereogram Magic Eye picture, which requires eye gymnastics to see a hidden three-dimensional illusion. People with the condition, known medically as strabismus, may also have a hard time viewing images through 3-D ViewMasters or antique Victorian stereo viewers.

Livingstone turned to Rembrandt after noticing that he seemed walleyed in several self-portraits. She said to herself, "Wouldn't it be cool if Rembrandt is stereo-blind?"

Livingstone and a colleague tested her theory by examining 36 Rembrandt self-portraits -- 24 oil paintings and 12 etchings -- to see if his eyes looked the same. They report their findings in the Sept. 16 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

In 23 of the 24 self portraits, one eye looks forward, while the other looks to the left side. The situation is reversed in all the etchings, which makes sense, according to Livingstone, because the etching process reverses what is etched on a plate.

Livingstone said several artists appear to have lacked stereo vision, including Winslow Homer, Andrew Wyeth, Pablo Picasso and Man Ray.

The research "opens the doors to understanding that things people think are disabilities turn out to be assets in certain situations," said Livingstone's co-author Bevil Conway, a research fellow at Harvard Medical School.

The findings surprised Tom Rassieur, assistant curator at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, because Rembrandt (1606-69) didn't "concern himself to a high degree" with highly accurate depictions of reality. "It's not as thought he cared as much as, say, a Renaissance master about making sure all the proportions were right. He worked with a much more intuitive method," he said. "If I had to choose an artist who was really concerned about the translation from three dimensions to two in a highly accurate way, it wouldn't be Rembrandt."

Regardless of the state of his vision, "there's a tremendous sense of depth of humanity in his art," Rassieur said. "He has an uncanny way of depicting human emotion and human expression, imbuing his figures with a sense of liveliness."
http://health.yahoo.com/search/healthnews?lb=s&p=id:62904
 

Mighty_Emperor

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This whole thing has now jumped the shark - this is taking the piss but that may indeed be the point ;) :

Poor diet, inherited disease made Gollum mad

AFP: 12/17/2004


PARIS, Dec 17 (AFP) - The "Lord of the Rings" character Gollum was paranoid and had a split personality but this was because he probably suffered from vitamin deficiency, anaemia, hyperthyroidism and a metabolic disease called porphyria.

That's the conclusion of a group of British doctors who sift through Gollum's symptoms in a tongue-in-cheek diagnosis published this Saturday in the British Medical Journal (BMJ).

"Gollum's diet is extremely limited, consisting only of raw fish. Vitamin B-12 deficiency may cause irritability, delusions and paranoia," they say.

"His reduced appetite and loss of hair and weight may be associated with iron deficiency anaemia. He is hypervigilant and does not seem to need much sleep.

"This, accompanied by his bulging eyes and weight loss, suggests hyperthyroidism. Gollum's dislike of sunlight may be induced to the photosensitivity of porphyria. Attacks may be induced by starvation and accompanied by paranoid psychosis."

Porphyria is an inherited disease of the metabolic system.

The "study", lead-authored by psychiatrist Elizabeth Sampson of the Royal Free and University College Medical School in London, describes Gollum as "a single, 587-year-old hobbit-like male of no fixed abode.

"He has presented with anti-social behaviour, increasing aggression and preoccupied with the 'one ring.'... He has no history of substance misuse, although like many young hobbits, he smoked 'pipe weed' in adolescence."

The diagnosis concludes: "Gollum displays pervasive maladaptive behaviour that has been present since childhood with a persistent disease course.

"His odd interests and spiteful behaviour have led to difficulty in forming friendships and have caused distress to others. He fulfills seven of the nine criteria for schizoid personality disorder."

In J.R.R. Tolkien's trilogy -- subsequently turned into a trio of Oscar-winning films -- Gollum, a thin, pale, gangrel creature, is enslaved by a magic ring made by the evil Sauron.

In his desperation to retrieve it, his mind persistently fights between a "good" personality, Smeagol, and a nasty one, Gollum.

-----------------
12/17/2004 18:06 GMT - AFP
Source

The paper:

Nadia Bashir, Nadia Ahmed, Anushka Singh, Yen Zhi Tang, Maria Young, Amina Abba, Elizabeth L Sampson (2004) A precious case from Middle Earth. British Medical Journal. 329 (7480). 1435 - 6.

Full text:
http://bmj.bmjjournals.com/cgi/content/ ... /7480/1435
 

escargot

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I love this subject, it's interesting on so many levels.

Literary characters with medical conditions or disabilities are 'marked' and their unusual qualities are never introduced randomly.


Was watching 'Red Dragon' on TV last night and it occurred to me that the lab worker may have become blind as a result of well-meaning hospital staff overusing a special light treatment just after she was born, rather than as a result of illness or injury. So she was 'damaged' physically through misguided kindness, whereas the 'Dragon' is damaged mentally through cruelty, with very different results.

OK, I'll go back to my victimology essay now. :roll:
 

Mighty_Emperor

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Shakespeare’s Writings Indicate He May Have Had Syphilis

Shakespeare’s name usually inspires thoughts of kings, fairies, lovers, wars and poetic genius--not syphilis. However, some passages in his plays and sonnets indicate that the Bard may have suffered from one or more venereal infections, according to an article in the Feb. 1 issue of Clinical Infectious Diseases, now available online.

Although syphilis is relatively uncommon now, it was rampant five centuries ago, transmitted from country to country by sailors, soldiers and merchants. Symptoms of syphilis can include genital lesions; rashes on the torso, palms, and soles of the feet; neurological problems; and destroyed facial tissue. Shakespeare alluded to sexually transmitted disease (STD) symptoms--and treatments--in several of his plays and poems, including Troilus and Cressida, As You Like It, and Sonnets.

Mentions of the “pox,” the “malady of France,” the “infinite malady,” and the “hoar leprosy” in his writings seem to indicate that the Bard knew--perhaps from personal experience--how torturous venereal disease could be. “Shakespeare’s knowledge of syphilis is clinically precise,” said John Ross, MD, author of the study. A line in Sonnet 154, “Love’s fire heats water,” apparently refers to an STD causing burning urination.

In Shakespeare’s time, one of the treatments for syphilis, inhalation of mercury vapor, was worse than the disease. Dr. Ross suggests that Shakespeare’s tremulous signature on his will, his social withdrawal in later years, and even his baldness might all be due to a mild degree of mercury vapor poisoning.

However, it doesn’t seem likely that Shakespeare’s death at 52 years of age was due to an STD. In fact, the alternative Elizabethan practice of using very hot baths to treat syphilitic people “would have been at least somewhat effective and perhaps highly effective,” according to Dr. Ross, of Caritas St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center in Boston, because high, fever-causing temperatures can kill the organisms that cause syphilis. (There is a reference to a “seething bath” curing “strange maladies” in Sonnet 153.) Shakespeare was also an actor, and he appeared in plays until at least 1603, said Dr. Ross. “It’s unlikely that he would have been performing if he had been suffering from the ravages of tertiary syphilis.” Nor did the Bard exhibit the mental problems toward the end of his life that would indicate severe mercury poisoning, judging from the quality of his writing, so any mercury treatment he received was probably limited.

Were Shakespeare’s remains to be examined today, evidence of infection might be obtained by examining the shinbones for the damage typical of an advanced case of syphilis or by testing for elevated levels of mercury that could indicate STD treatment. Until then, “it’s something that can’t be proven or disproven,” Dr. Ross said, but Shakespeare’s own warning on his gravestone (“Blessed be the man that spares these stones,/And cursed be he that moves my bones”) might give pause to those who would try to find out.

###

Founded in 1979, Clinical Infectious Diseases publishes clinical articles twice monthly in a variety of areas of infectious disease, and is one of the most highly regarded journals in this specialty. It is published under the auspices of the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA). Based in Alexandria, Virginia, IDSA is a professional society representing about 8,000 physicians and scientists who specialize in infectious diseases. For more information, visit www.idsociety.org .
Source
 
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OneWingedBird

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Does he still have a hare lip in the film? IIRC didn't the character have one in the book and all the other kids called him 'c*nt face'.
 
A

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A line in Sonnet 154, “Love’s fire heats water,” apparently refers to an STD causing burning urination.
This has GOT to be the single most idiotic thing I have ever read. Seriously, did the writer of the article put that in as a joke? The complete line which the article partially quoted: "Love's fire heats water, water cools not love."

Sonnet 154 discusses a maiden taking Cupid's arrow and attempting to put its fire out in cold water. However, the arrow warms the water and makes a bath that cures "disease" (possibly lovesickness?). These folks must have waaaayyy too much time on their hands to be drawing these kinds of conclusions!
 
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Yithian

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As an aside, I always thought 'sudden death syndrome' was a bit of a retrospective diagnosis.

How can you tell that somebody has a propensity towards dying suddenly until they've suddenly done so?

Does anybody get diagnosed with this syndrome whilst still alive?
 

TheQuixote

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Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/h ... 075936.stm
Published: 2005/06/09 09:02:23 GMT
© BBC MMV

Was Jesus killed by a blood clot?

Jesus may have died from a blood clot in his lungs, Israeli doctors believe.
Dr Benjamin Brenner from Rambam Medical Centre bases his theory on New Testament and contemporary religious sources about the crucifixion.

He believes Jesus developed a deep vein thrombosis in his legs while nailed to the cross, which then travelled from his legs to his lungs and killed him.

Other scientists dismissed the theory. Bible scholars said the spirituality behind Jesus' death was more important.

DVT

Dr Brenner looked at an in-depth study into Christ's crucifixion that had been published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1986 by Dr William Edwards and colleagues from the US.


This fits well with Jesus' condition
Dr Brenner
That study found that before his crucifixion, Jesus went 12 hours without food or water, was under intense emotional stress and was beaten and forced to walk to the crucifixion site carrying the heavy cross beam of the cross on which he was killed.

It is commonly believed that Jesus died from asphyxiation and blood loss after being nailed to the cross.

Dr Brenner claims that the authors may have missed the possibility of a blood clot.

Missing the point

Awareness about DVT and the associated complication of pulmonary embolism - when the blood clot reaches the lungs - has been growing in recent years, particularly in relation to immobility and long-term travel, dubbed economy class syndrome.


Jesus was on the cross for only six hours. It seems unlikely that a large DVT could develop
Dr William Edwards, author of the JAMA study
He said "It is known that the common cause of death in the setting of multiple trauma, immobilisation and dehydration is pulmonary embolism.

"This fits well with Jesus' condition and actually was in all likelihood the major cause of death of crucified victims."

He told the Journal of Thrombosis and Haemostasis that Jesus probably died three to six hours after the crucifixion from the clot.

But Dr Edwards dismissed Brenner's theory saying he was well aware of the effects of pulmonary embolism at the time that he wrote the Journal of the American Medical Association study.

"We didn't list it in our article because we didn't consider it a likely cause. "Jesus was on the cross for only six hours. It seems unlikely that a large DVT could develop and cause fatal pulmonary embolism in that short time."

Bible scholars said by focusing on the cause of death they were missing the point.

Stephen Pfann, a Bible scholar in Jerusalem, said: "What they are doing is an autopsy of the physical body which is always interesting from an academic standpoint.

"But if people concentrate on that part of the event alone they are missing the most important part, which is the spiritual suffering.

"The major trauma for the son of God is spiritual trauma, the loneliness feeling the rejection of God and the shame of the world that came upon him at that point."
hrmm...
 
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Rrose_Selavy

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Here we go again - More dignosis on very little evidence.

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/newspaper/ ... 22,00.html

The Sunday Times - Culture
July 10, 2005

Comment: The genetics of genius
A new book links Asperger’s syndrome and creativity. But is there more to artistic greatness than madness, asks Bryan Appleyard

“You have translated Shakespeare. I admire him greatly, but I have also written a tragedy. Shall I read it to you?” This was the 17-year-old Hans Christian Andersen, introducing himself to one Admiral Wulff. “Nobody,” comments Michael Fitzgerald, professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at Trinity College, Dublin, “but a person with Asperger’s syndrome [AS] could start a conversation like this.”

The philosopher AJ Ayer was once asked what he saw when he thought of Paris — for example, the Eiffel Tower or Notre Dame. He pondered for a moment and replied: “A sign saying Paris.” “This is,” observes Fitzgerald, “classically autistic.” WB Yeats would emit “a low, tuneless humming sound” when starting to compose his poetry. He would often do so while roaming the streets of Dublin. He would also “flail his arms around in a violent way that . . . intrigued policemen”. Repetitive motor mannerisms, explains Fitzgerald, are typical of autistics.

These strange, comic but painful examples appear in Fitzgerald’s new book, The Genesis of Artistic Creativity: Asperger’s Syndrome and the Arts, a study of the bio-
graphies of 21 writers, philosophers, composers and painters, all of whom, he concludes, suffered from AS. The list also includes Mozart, Beethoven, Swift, Melville, Orwell, Kant, Warhol and Van Gogh. Elsewhere, Fitzgerald has drawn the same conclusion about Michelangelo, Wittgenstein, Einstein and Newton. Contemplating such a pantheon, one feels that “suffered” is almost the wrong word. Clearly, if Fitzgerald’s diagnoses are correct, then AS might be considered the royal road to the greatest heights of which the human imagination is capable. Indeed, as Fitzgerald put it to me, if a parent came to him and said “My child has an IQ of 150 — could he win a Nobel prize?”, his response would be that if he also has AS, then quite possibly. Otherwise, no.

Fitzgerald’s book is the latest example of a fascination with autism and AS that extends far beyond merely seeing them as complex mental disorders. In 1988, we had Barry Levinson’s film Rain Man, in which Dustin Hoffman played an autistic “savant”, incapable of normal social interaction, but fully capable of memorising an entire phone book. We have had Mark Haddon’s novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, an astonishing evocation of the world-view of a teenage boy with AS.

There is also the Josh Hartnett film Mozart and the Whale, about two AS sufferers. The late Stephen Jay Gould, meanwhile, ended his collection of essays, Questioning the Millennium, with a truly moving essay on an autistic numerical savant, the shock ending of which won’t leave a dry eye in your house.

One DIY way of getting astride this particular wave is to test yourself for autism. A simple test was devised by Simon Baron-Cohen, director of the Autism Research Centre in Cambridge. You can take it at www.wired.com/wired/archive/9.12/aqtest.html. I did, and came out borderline. Story of my life — neither one thing nor the other.

But Fitzgerald’s book is also part of a tradition of scientific fascination with art, inspired by the power and persistence, yet utter mysteriousness, of this human phenomenon. Art, like God, has accompanied every human society. Also like God, it has driven people to inexplicable agonies and ecstasies. Art has even created a fantastically rarefied pantheon of saints — or, as we say, geniuses — whose gifts transcend mere talent or diligence and somehow define the whole of the human condition.

The key scientific assault on this mystery was Freud’s. In essence, he saw art as the result of the sublimation of the asocial unconscious. We have these drives that cannot be expressed in socially acceptable ways, so, through complex processes of repression and transformation, they are turned into acceptable products. Art is thus a link between fantasy and reality. “Art,” Freud wrote, “is a conventionally accepted reality in which, thanks to artistic illusion, symbols and substitutes are able to provoke real emotions.”

Few would now find this, or Freud’s diagnosis that art is an expression of some form of narcissistic neurosis, particularly plausible or adequate. It is, nevertheless, a quasi-scientific version of an old belief: that geniuses are mad. For Seneca, all great geniuses had “a touch of madness”. Shakespeare said, “the lunatic, the lover, and the poet /Are of imagination all compact”. For Dryden, “Great Wits are sure to Madness near alli’d”. And anybody watching Charles Hazlewood’s admirable BBC series on Mozart and Beethoven might have concluded that demigods and fruitcakes are, indeed, “near alli’d”. Fitzgerald, more politely, explains that their brains seem to be modular rather than integrated.

Following Freud, there were numerous attempts to explain art, none of which seemed to live up to the scale of the phenomenon they were trying to describe. Almost any explanation can seem laughably reductive when confronted with Hamlet or the Missa Solemnis. There is, in Freud and other thinkers, the implication that art is a disorder, again like God, that we could somehow grow out of. But in the face of such works, why on earth would we want to? In this context, the link between AS and art is liberating. Though it still depends on the view of the genius as disordered, it does so from a positive, expansive perspective.

The extent to which it represents a complete break with the Freudian tradition is briskly represented in Fitzgerald’s book. He quotes the Yeats biographer Brenda Maddox: “The secret of Yeats is that his mother did not love him.”

“I disagree with this view,” says the stern Fitzgerald. “I believe the secret of Yeats was the impact of autism on his life and work.” This means something — perhaps a great deal. But first, as poor Jennifer Aniston says in those shampoo adverts, here comes the science.

Autism was first described by Leo Kanner in 1943 as, among other things, “the profound withdrawal from contact with people, an obsessive desire for the preservation of sameness, a skilful relation to objects”. In the same year, Hans Asperger described a similar condition. AS was later accepted as a form of autism, but with distinctive features: it often involved high intelligence; and, as Fitzgerald puts it, whereas autistics cannot communicate and do not want to, AS sufferers also cannot communicate, but they do want to make themselves understood and to understand, to find their way into the normal human realm — an impulse that almost exactly describes the late philosophy of Wittgenstein.

We don’t know what causes these things, but we do know they are overwhelmingly genetic. AS is 93% heritable, which means an identical twin of an AS sufferer is almost certain to have AS. This does not mean cloning Mozart would produce another Mozart; it might just result in a very brilliant, very unhappy and entirely unproductive man. A genetic package may have made Mozart the man, but it would have meant nothing had the man not been marinated in a specific musical environment from birth. There may, therefore, be a genetics of genius, but it will certainly be complex, involving many genes. In addition, you would need the entire set: one wrong nucleotide and you can forget the Nobel prize.

AS produces some significant symptoms. Those afflicted have phenomenal powers of concentration, but a weak sense of self. They become obsessed with detail and pattern.

They frequently lack normal motor skills, and they have enormous difficulty understanding the dynamics of human relations. They also retain a childlike view of the world, asking questions most of us would find embarrassingly simple-minded. Wittgenstein once wondered what would look different if the sun revolved round the earth, and Einstein began his explorations with the question: what would it be like to sit on a beam of light?

Of course, the vast majority of people with AS or any form of autism are not great artists. For almost every sufferer, these conditions are a grave misfortune.

Meanwhile, among the autistic artists, there is an almost bizarre variety of ways in which the symptoms become art. Mozart and Beethoven may have had the same disorder, but it is difficult to imagine two more completely different artists. And the works of Arthur Conan Doyle and Jonathan Swift may have something in common, but it is not immediately apparent to me.

Of course, any theory of genius that said all geniuses had to be the same would be absurd, so radical variation does not weaken Fitzgerald’s argument. In any case, this is not a theory of art. Fitzgerald does not claim all artistic geniuses have AS, and, crucially, his argument takes the art as a given. He asks neither what art is nor whether, say, Van Gogh was an artist. All he does say is that there seems to be a strong link between the disorder known as AS and the disorder known as genius.

The crucial question, then, becomes: why? On the face of it, there seems something staggeringly improbable about the idea that minds so comprehensively disordered should be able to shine such dazzling light into the imaginations of “neurotypical” (ie, non-disordered) people. Fitzgerald’s explanation is that they are able to show us utterly different views of the world and thus lift us into entirely new forms of consciousness: “This is because they have a different perspective, on account of their weak central coherence and focus on detail, and are able to show neurotypicals part of the world that they miss because of their normal global processing of the world for gist.”

This is fair enough, but it can only be half the answer. It is perfectly possible, for example, to imagine a perspective on the world provided by a brilliant and gifted AS sufferer that made no sense whatsoever to the rest of us. Genius only becomes genius by being recognised in the world; art only becomes art by joining the collection of other things that have become known as art. It is not enough to be mad; the artist must also be, at whatever level, intelligible. And so, as Fitzgerald acknowledges, a mystery remains: what is it about these strange, possibly crazy creations that projects them so far and so deep into the human consciousness? We cannot begin to imagine; and, with luck, we never will.

The Genesis of Artistic Creativity: Asperger’s Syndrome and the Arts by Michael Fitzgerald (Jessica Kingsley Publishers £13.95)
 
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Mighty_Emperor

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Rrose Selavy said:
Here we go again - More dignosis on very little evidence.


http://www.timesonline.co.uk/newspaper/ ... 22,00.html

The Sunday Times - Culture

.............

These strange, comic but painful examples appear in Fitzgerald’s new book, The Genesis of Artistic Creativity: Asperger’s Syndrome and the Arts, a study of the bio-graphies of 21 writers, philosophers, composers and painters, all of whom, he concludes, suffered from AS. The list also includes Mozart, Beethoven, Swift, Melville, Orwell, Kant, Warhol and Van Gogh. Elsewhere, Fitzgerald has drawn the same conclusion about Michelangelo, Wittgenstein, Einstein and Newton.

...............

The Genesis of Artistic Creativity: Asperger’s Syndrome and the Arts by Michael Fitzgerald (Jessica Kingsley Publishers £13.95)
Its here:

www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/18431 ... ntmagaz-21
www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1843103 ... enantmc-20

What fantastically flawed logic. I've diagnosed these (all long dead) creative people as having Asperger from going through their biographies and picking up anything that would fit so one of the roots of creativity. There are studies one could do to check this idea using, you know, living people but let them pick and chose the data to suit their ends

And the:

autism = savant/genius

link is really unhelpful - see the Aspergers thread and the Autism and MMR one which are respectively:

www.forteantimes.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=19185

www.forteantimes.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=2601

------------
Are people no longer allowed to be creative and geniuses without there being something wrong with them?
 

Anome

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I think it has more to do with trying to explain why the people making the diagnosis aren't so creative and clever.

"Why aren't I like them? Because they had something wrong with them, while I'm a relatively normal person."

Although, some sufferers of Asperger's may see it as a way of showing how they are special. They're just like these famous dead people!

On the whole, it's an interesting mental exercise, but it can never be shown to be absolutely true, so it should be treated as mere idle speculation - which is what it is.
 
A

Anonymous

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Madness of King George was 'caused by arsenic'

From Independent online Edition 22 July 2005
The madness of King George III may have been triggered by his medicine, which contained enough arsenic to cause chronic poisoning, scientists have discovered.
Full story at-http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/this_britain/article300722.ece
:roll: Well it would, wouldn't it :?:
 

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Were Drugs or Disease the Muse Behind These Famous Artists?

Were Drugs or Disease the Muse Behind These Famous Artists?
24 Nov 2005

If our modern clinical chemistry, toxicology, immunology, and infectious disease labs had existed during the 16th to early-19th centuries, the world might have missed out on the work of some of the world's most creative painters, sculptors and poets, hints a paper recently published in November 2005 issue of the Archives of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine.

According to Paul Wolf, M.D., Professor of Pathology at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) School of Medicine, artists ranging from Renaissance sculptors Benvenuto Cellini and Michelangelo to Romantic poets Coleridge and Keats, may have been creatively driven by the effects of their disease or the drugs and chemicals they ingested.

“Their inspiration may have been shaped by their human condition,” Wolf says. “The associations between illness and art may be close and many, because of both the physical limitations of the artists and their mental adaptation to disease.”

In his article, Wolf cites the stories - some frequently heard; others more surprising - of artists, and their illnesses and addictions. He paints a picture of what pathological symptoms may have contributed to their most productive and creative years, along with what modern-day medical diagnosis and treatments could have done for them.

If we could somehow transport painter Vincent Van Gogh to the UCSD Medical Center today, doctors may diagnose him with epilepsy and manic-depression and treated his symptoms with lithium carbonate instead of the drug digitalis, which was prescribed for him by his doctor. The drink absinthe - which he reportedly enjoyed to excess - wouldn't be available at the local liquor store; a drink with side effects which also include “yellow vision.” Patients over-medicated with digitalis can also develop yellow vision or see rings of light. Once cured, Van Gogh might no longer produce paintings that inspire viewers with their vivid yellow hues and swirling orbs of stars in the night sky.

Michelangelo depicted his own mental and physical conditions in paintings and sculpture, as did subsequent painters, according to Wolf. His right knee was swollen and deformed by gout, depicted in the painting, “School of Athens” by Raphael that is displayed in the Vatican. Obsessed with his work, Michelangelo would go for days on a diet of bread and wine, drinking wine processed in lead containers and possibly working with lead-based paints. Lead can injure the kidneys, inhibiting the excretion of uric acid, resulting in increased serum uric acid and gout. It is also commonly believed that he suffered from depression, exhibiting the signs and symptoms of a depressive illness, Wolf states in his paper. Would Michelangelo have been driven to create the marvelous fresco paintings on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel had this depressive disease been diagnosed and treated?

Opium mostly likely contributed to the creativity of many famous composers and poets, among them French composer Hector Berlioz, who took opium to relieve agonizing toothaches, and poet Coleridge, who saw the palace of Kublai Khan in a trance and sang its praise, “in a state of Reverie, caused by two grains of opium.”

“Modern-day clinical chemistry might have unraveled the mysteries of many artists' afflictions,” said Wolf. “After diagnoses were established, aided by anatomic and clinical pathology findings, these famous artists may have benefited from resultant treatment with today's medical techniques.”

But one wonders, would their artistry have been “cured” as well?

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James_H

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I sometimes think that people are driven to creative impulses because they are quite, well, f*cked-up. If the inner mashedness were taken away there would be nothing to create with and nothing to create into. Drugs both reflect and feed such states.
 

PeniG

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The attitude that creativity is caused by illness, physical or psychological, is an inherently unhealthy one, and is not normally put forward by people with active creative careers, though it is occasionally used as an excuse by creative people who also have addictions. See Stephen King's On Writing for both an example and a debunking of this attitude.

Creativity can be curative, but sickness, depression, and stress disrupt it. A creative habit can keep the wolves at bay; it does not summon them. I've had a crappy year, and I cannot write. This makes me even more miserable than I was before. But when I come out the other side, because I write, maybe I can use my misery, write something that reaches into someone else's misery and helps them out of it. Such things happen.

Nothing is more functional, joyous, and fundamentally healthy than creativity. Because I am dysfunctional, I cannot create right now. Cure my problems, and I will create again. But no one ever completely cures all their problems, so we face a choice: lie down under the onslaught and do nothing, or grappleour troubles and put them to good use, apply mental judo and create beauty out of ugliness, hope out of despair, wisdom out of misery.

Art is like gardening is like knitting is like cooking is like singing is like working on your car is like redecorating - we do them because we can, because we enjoy it, because creation is what humans do.

Belittle that, belittle your own potential - be little.[/i]
 

Xanatic_

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Here in Sweden, the Autism & Asperger's Society(Förbundet) has created a wall of fame exhibit. I saw it down at the library, featuring a number of historical characters. They had for example Einstein, Newton, Tesla and it seemed a bit like they had just thrown in every genius they could think of.
 

Kondoru

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That's ok as long as they included Hans Asperger himself...
 

cece23

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Also someone just mentioned that Einstein was portrayed as having Aspergers. I heard it was ADHD. Regardless, the man was a genius. And I don't just mean in the sciencific field, but in the way he was able to think out of the box on all areas of life, like religion and philosophy. He was so way ahead of his time and we can still learn a lot from him.
 
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Xanatic_

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I think there are few things people have not diagnosed Einstein with. He tends to be the number one victim when a group wants to claim some historical character as their own.
 

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Jane Austen with Asperger's? Are they mad? I doubt you could be a successful novelist with that particular disorder - you have to understand people to write about them the way she did.

One thing I've noticed about all the people I've known with some sort of clinical diagnosis - paranoia, depression, anxiety, ADD, whatever - is that the traits they have are traits that I and many other people exhibit too, only the person with a clinical disorder has them to an extreme degree that interferes with living. Everyone gets wired; ADD people are continually, perpetually, unrelentingly wired. Everyone prefers to shift blame away from themselves and create order out of chaos; a paranoid cannot interpret any event without blaming outside forces and weaving them into a complex self-centered fantasy. And so on.

So from my point of view, there are two problems with retrospective diagnosis: one is that people are diagnosing for folks they never met, and the other is that they are looking for signs of pathology in successful people. It strikes me as a dangerous sort of game. People are not labels and personalities are not syndromes. It may be illuminating if played by strict rules; but people who play it should make it crystal clear in interviews that it is only a game.
Now they say Jane was poisoned with arsenic!

Author Jane Austen was virtually blind at the end of her life possibly as a result of arsenic poisoning, experts have revealed.

Tests on three pairs of glasses held at the British Library showed the author's sight deteriorated considerably.

At the time, heavy metals like arsenic were used in medicines that Austen, who had rheumatism, may have taken.

Library experts have suggested such poisoning may also have contributed to her early death at the age of 41.

The novelist, who lived in Steventon, Hampshire, died on 18 July 1817 and the cause of her death has been the subject of much speculation. ...

http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-hampshire-39208356#
 

Ermintruder

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Tests on three pairs of glasses held at the British Library
There is an implication in this statement that the "three pairs" are incontravertably-identifiable, each from each-other, defining the sequence in which they were worn.

Whilst it is entirely-possible that Jane Austin, usefully and obligingly, actually had three (say) autobiographically-recorded / differently-coloured pairs of tortiseshell glasses, perhaps made by Dixey & Son (as an exemplar 1770s glasses maker), the technologies of optometry and eyeglasses manufacture were in their infancies.

Whilst there was undoubtedly an aspect of bespoke/personalised 'prescription' lensmaking and/or selection going on, I'm very doubtful that a perithetical inference taken from three inexactly-identified and probabilistically-interpreted points on a curve constitutes an overall basis from which to draw a medical conclusion.

I'm totally willing to be talked out of my predictably-doubting attitude to this research. In fact, their thesis must be capable of doing exactly this (unless it is just an accumulated series of supposition and caveat).

But this apppears, first pass, to be just an exercise in autodidactic confirmation bias....I'll dig further, and hopefully contradict myself.

[EDIT]
Aha! Further faux 'evidence' of poor eyesight (I jest...probably)
Jane Austen's home had 'upside down wallpaper...is this the BBC online content editor's idea of a little providential joke? And of course, let's not forget the arsenic/wallpaper/Napoleon 'poisoning' /Elba sequence of disputable (urban?) legendary proof
[/EDIT]
 
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Anonymous-50446

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I'm totally willing to be talked out of my predictably-doubting attitude to this research. In fact, their thesis must be capable of doing exactly this (unless it is just an accumulated series of supposition and caveat).
Quite.

But since this was all before the advent of antibiotics, she might just have stabbed herself on a rose thorn and died from some disease we've all forgotten about. Or syphilis. (*Coal ducks behind handy rock for protection*)
 

JamesWhitehead

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is this the BBC online content editor's idea of a little providential joke?
I think the BBC site regards modern Janeites as vulnerable to any piffling clickbait. They have an article about "The Real Mr Darcy!"

Based entirely on his appearance, which Austen neglected to describe! :rofl:

He had a pointy chin and powdered hair, they think.

The wallpaper story seems to be an anniversary puff for the Austen House. Their chosen design seems to have been rethought with a beady eye on what might sell in the giftshop. It is more Ashley than Austen but I can see why the authentic, upside-down spider version might have been a more difficult sell! :rolleyes:
 
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EnolaGaia

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... Any other artists whos style was influenced by some kind of impairment? Monet?
This October 2018 news item describes a study claiming Leonardo da Vinci's notable accuracy in draftsmanship could well have been the result of the artist's misaligned eyes.
Rare eye condition was behind da Vinci's genius, research claims

A rare eye condition helped Leonardo da Vinci paint distance and depth of objects on flat surfaces with the accuracy which he became famous for, new research claims.

Da Vinci, one of the world's most celebrated painters, had intermittent exotropia, a type of eye misalignment in which one eye turns outward, according to a study published Thursday in the journal JAMA Ophthalmology.

"Looking at his work, I noticed the pronounced divergence of the eyes in all of his paintings," explained the study's author, Christopher Tyler, a research professor at City University of London and the Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute in San Francisco.

Analyzing the direction of the gaze in six likely self-portraits of da Vinci -- two sculptures, two oil paintings and two drawings -- Tyler found that some of the work showed signs of exotropia, with the eyes looking at an outward angle.

Not all six works were self-portraits, but da Vinci specified in his own writings that any portrait work by a painter reflects the painter's own appearance.

Tyler assessed the eye condition by drawing circles to the pupils, irises and eyelids on each painting and measuring their positions. When he converted the measurements into an angle, the results showed da Vinci had an exotropia tendency, with one eye turning -10.3 degrees outward when relaxed. But the master artist could revert his eye to a straight alignment when focused.

Tyler believes that da Vinci's left eye was affected by the condition, but it is not easy to be sure.
The eye misalignment exotropia, a form of strabismus, affects about 1% of the world population, he said.

Da Vinci's exotropia allowed him to see the world from a different angle. "What he was looking at would look more like a flat canvas than like for us a three-dimensional screen," Tyler said; this made it "easier to translate things onto the canvas."

This condition contrasted with the regular vision of his other eye to help him develop a strong understanding of three-dimensional objects. Tyler said this ability made it possible for most of da Vinci's artworks to have the precise shading he is known for. ...
FULL STORY: https://www.cnn.com/2018/10/18/health/da-vinci-rare-eye-condition-study-intl/index.html

PUBLISHED STUDY: https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamaophthalmology/article-abstract/2707245
 

EnolaGaia

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A 2004 article in The New England Journal of Medicine makes a similar claim of strabismus / exotropia for Rembrandt. Here are the bibliographic particulars and an excerpt from the abstract.

Was Rembrandt Stereoblind?
Margaret S. Livingstone, Ph.D.
Bevil R. Conway, Ph.D.
September 16, 2004
N Engl J Med 2004; 351:1264-1265
DOI: 10.1056/NEJM200409163511224

Stereopsis is an important cue for depth perception, yet it can be a hindrance to an artist trying to depict a three-dimensional scene on a flat surface. Art teachers often instruct students to close one eye in order to flatten what they see. Therefore, stereoblindness might not be a handicap — and might even be an asset — for some artists. Stereopsis requires precise alignment of the two eyes. We examined a number of self-portraits of Rembrandt, an artist known for his astute powers of observation, and noticed that many of them show his eyes as exotropic ...
 

EnolaGaia

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This 2009 article in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine:

The diagnosis of art: Durer's squint – and Shakespeare's?
Jeffrey K Aronson and Manoj Ramachandran
J R Soc Med. 2009 Sep 1; 102(9): 391–393.
doi: 10.1258/jrsm.2009.09k043

... reviews possible strabismus / eye focus anomalies for multiple artists and Shakespeare.

Strabismus causes loss of binocular vision and can cause amblyopia. It is very common – it affects 2–4% of the population1 – and artists are not immune. The most famous case is that of Albrecht Dürer ..., whose mother also had a squint ... Although most of Dürer's several self-portraits show his squint, an early portrait lacks it, consistent with the fact that divergent squint develops later than the crossed version. Another squinting artist was Giovanni Francesco Barbieri, whose nickname ‘Il Guercino’ means ‘the squinter’. And portraits of Edgar Degas show him with a clear divergent squint on the right, probably associated with severe myopia. ... From Dürer's portraits one would suppose that his squint was also in the right eye, but a late portrait shows it in the left, and it is likely that he painted the earlier portraits himself, looking in a mirror, while the later one was painted by a colleague.
FULL STORY: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2738778/
 

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EnolaGaia

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This November 2019 article describes research concluding neither da Vinci nor Rembrandt exhibited notable strabismus / exotropia, and that the evidence used to allege these conditions was consistent with simply having a strong eye dominance (left versus right eye).
Theory that Leonardo da Vinci's art was tied to rare eye condition refuted by new research

Leonardo da Vinci, one of the world's most celebrated painters, likely did not have a rare eye condition that was thought to have played a role in his art, new research has found. This disputes the findings of an earlier study.

The research said that while it was plausible da Vinci had a dominant eye, he likely did not have exotropia -- a type of eye misalignment in which one eye turns outward. A form of strabismus, or squint, exotropia affects 1% of the world population.

A study published in 2018 based on an analysis of da Vinci's self-portraits claimed that he had intermittent exotropia and that the condition could have been a factor in his artistic genius.

The new research also said that it was unlikely Dutch master Rembrandt had exotropia, as a 2004 study of his work had claimed. ...
FULL STORY: https://edition.cnn.com/2019/11/27/world/leonardo-da-vinci-eyes-scn/index.html
 
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