Friday, 5 August 2011

Thomas Alva Edison

I have decided that on Fridays I will choose a famous person suspected or confirmed with Asperger's Syndrome to profile. This is to bring into attention of the achievements that an individual with this neurological condition has to offer.

"If I find 10,000 ways something won't work, I haven't failed. I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward." --- Edison
(February 11, 1847 – October 18, 1931)

Fitting that I chose Thomas to be the first person to profile as a person with Asperger's Syndrome. We both are deaf, so I feel such a strong connection to him. I am uncertain whether he knows any sign language. If you happen to stumble across something that indicates him knowing it, please do post the link(s) in the comment section.

Thomas is arguably the most famous inventor in history. His accomplishments are extraordinary and consists of an impressive 1,093 patents in his name. Many of his inventions have contributed to mass communications, particularly telecommunications. He also originated the concept and implementation of creating a system that distributed electricity to homes, businesses, and factories. The list goes on.

Here is a brief video of Thomas.

Asperger's Syndrome
Now, I am going to discuss why it is suspected that Thomas is on the spectrum. Thomas did not speak until the age of 4 (he became deaf later). Sometimes an autistic child will not speak until they are a few years old. When he started to speak, he questioned everything and was adamant in having answers for everything. Whenever an adult did not know the answer, he would ask the adult "Why?" This is a characteristic of a person with Asperger's Syndrome - they are not satisfied with an unanswered question.

Thomas' mother homeschooled him as a young child as the school teacher was unable to cope with his persistent questioning and seemingly self-centered behaviour. His mother was convinced that he being an "eccentric" were outward signs of his remarkable intelligence. As he grew older, his appetite for knowledge grew and his parents guided him to the local library. Thus, Thomas became an independent learner. His interest in the sciences grew and his parents supported him by hiring someone to tutor him on complex scientific theories.

As Thomas grew up, his perseverance increased. Any challenges that occurred, he would expend enormous amounts of energy to overcome it. He began to work at age 12 and any income he earned went to a chemical laboratory established in the basement of his home. (there are more about his childhood to indiciate Asperger's-related, but I think I have sufficient points across)

Nikola Tesla quoted "He had no hobby, cared for no sort of amusement of any kind and lived in utter disregard of the most elementary rules of hygiene. [...] His method was inefficient in the extreme, for an immense ground had to be covered to get anything at all unless blind chance intervened and, at first, I was almost a sorry witness of his doings, knowing that just a little theory and calculation would have saved him 90% of the labour. But he had a veritable contempt for book learning and mathematical knowledge, trusting himself entirely to his inventor's instinct and practical American sense."

In a nutshell, Thomas was extremely persistent and wanted to continously learn about the field of sciences. He paid very little attention to the social world. This enabled him to gain a strong foundation in various scientific skills to become a very successful inventor.


This is definitely a good idea, we often see small lists describing those thought to have had Asperger's, so it will be good to have an in depth look at them. Well done.

Edison certainly seems to have fit the bill! Very interesting.

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