Blog post updated on 3rd March 2022.
Albert Einstein (1879 – 1955) was one of the world’s best-known scientists who won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1921 ‘for his services to theoretical physics’ and discovering the ‘law of the photoelectric effect.’
Over time, people have questioned if Einstein had dyslexia, dyspraxia, autism and ADHD – four of the main neurodivergent conditions Exceptional Individuals provide services for. Having all four learning differences is more possible than you might think, this is because dyslexia often ‘can coexist with other learning disabilities like ADHD, autism spectrum disorder and dyspraxia.’ Below are some explanations of how he could have had all four:
While Einstein ‘loved mathematics and science,’ he ‘disliked grammar and had problems with spelling,’ which could suggest that he had dyslexia. It was falsely claimed that he could not speak until the age of four, but according to Abraham Pais in Subtle is the Lord: The Science and Life of Albert Einstein (Oxford University Press, 1982), Einstein spoke in full sentences between the ages of two and three.
Rae Jacobson believes Einstein may have had dyslexia for reasons such as finding ‘it hard to express his thoughts and ideas in writing,’ learning better in a creative environment and seeing ‘the world from a unique perspective.’
At the age of 16, Einstein struggled to tie his shoelaces, implying he could have had dyspraxia. He also failed his college examinations. According to The Dyspraxic Chef, Einstein was ‘thought of as being dyspraxic’ or ‘having had dyspraxia tendencies.’
A woman named Philippa on the Dyspraxia Foundation U.K. website has likened Einstein’s quote, ‘everybody is a genius, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid,’ to a child’s daily struggle with DCD (developmental coordination disorder), another term for dyspraxia.
Michael Fitzgerald, professor of psychiatry at Trinity College in Dublin, believed that Einstein also had Asperger syndrome, a type of autistic spectrum disorder, due to his creativity. Whilst at a conference in London, Fitzgerald said: ‘I’m arguing the genes for autism/Asperger’s, and creativity are essentially the same.’
Autism expert Simon Baron-Cohen also believes that Einstein suffered from Asperger’s syndrome, which made him ‘socially awkward.’
Experts believed that Einstein had ADHD because he ‘was as disorganised and forgetful as he was insightful and intelligent.’ Other traits he was known to have included: inattention by being frequently disciplined at school and college for not paying attention, being rebellious in the way he often opposed his school teachers and college professors, and being impulsive having several love affairs throughout his life.
There are other, more positive, points that suggest Einstein may have had ADHD, such as ‘hyper-focusing’ by conducting ‘highly complex thought experiments.’ This is similar to Mack, the girl in the Storybooth animation about Living with ADHD, turning the negativity of her focusing on a crumb on her desk during maths at school, into the positivity of noticing small details. Einstein also had ‘exceptional creativity,’ which led to his Theory of General Relativity, another trait of ADHD.
If you have any of the neurodivergence listed above, feel free to contact us to discuss how we can help you find meaningful work, or support you at work. For more information on any of the above learning differences, you can visit our neurodiversity page.