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Did Alan Turing have Asperger's syndrome?

  • Henry O'Connell (a1) and Michael Fitzgerald (a2)

Alan Turing was born in Paddington, London on June 23, 1912 . His family were middle-class and well-off. He was fascinated with science from an early age and showed precocious talent, especially in the areas of chemistry and mathematics. He attended Sherbourne Public School and then King's College, Cambridge where he studied mathematics. His areas of interest at Cambridge were probability theory and mathematical logic. It was at Cambridge that he first conceptualised the Universal Turing Machine, an idea that was to evolve into the modern theory of computing. He has been referred to as the father of the computer.

He worked on a cipher machine at Princeton University between 1936 and 1938. He worked for the British Government during World War II with the Government Code and Cipher School at Bletchley Park. He was ultimately the key player in deciphering the German 'Enigma' code used by its submarines during the war. After the war he took up a post in Manchester University where he continued to work on ideas of artificial intelligence. He was arrested and charged for homosexual activity in 1952 and underwent a course of oestrogen therapy. He committed suicide in 1954.

He was regarded as being socially aloof and eccentric by colleagues and friends. He was interested in mathematics, chemistry and logic from an early age, to the exclusion of other activities. This paper attempts to establish whether he fulfilled the criteria for Asperger's syndrome.

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1.Hodges, A. Alan Turing the enigma. London: Vintage, 1992.
2.Gillberg, C. Clinical and neurobiological aspects in six family studies of Asperger's syndrome. In: Frith, U. (Ed) Autism and Asperger's Syndrome. Cambridge: University Press, 1991.
3.ICD 10 Classification of Mental and Behavioural Disorders. WHO, Geneva, 1992.
4.American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic Criteria for DSM-IV. Washington DC: APA, 1994.
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Irish Journal of Psychological Medicine
  • ISSN: 0790-9667
  • EISSN: 2051-6967
  • URL: /core/journals/irish-journal-of-psychological-medicine
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