jeudi 27 juillet 2017

Marie Curie and autism

"Another Nobel Laureate who might have had Asperger syndrome was Irène Joliot-Curie, elder daughter of Marie and Pierre Curie. She inherited the shyness of both her parents as well as their abilities, and had great difficulties in greeting and dealing with strangers. She was described as ‘rather awkward in her movements’, by nature very reserved; she had difficulty in making friends. She never acquired the art of casual conversation and grew up insensitive to the attitude of others. In argument she was incapable of the least deceit or artifice or of making the smallest concession. With an implacable obstinacy she would present her thesis, meeting her interlocutor head on, whoever he might be. Her imperturbable calm and her direct manner in replying to questions made her seem cold and somewhat haughty. She took little interest in her appearance and dress. Like her mother she always wore the simplest of garments, but in her case they were crude and inelegant.
Although the cause of the Asperger syndrome, and of autism generally, remains unknown, a genetic factor is certainly involved. The condition is not exactly hereditary but there is usually some trace of the syndrome elsewhere in the family. There may be an example of this in the case of Joliot-Curie; both her parents were introverted but she seems to have taken more after her uncompromising mother. Marie Curie did not greatly care what impression she created. She was found difficult to engage in conversation, and to be liable to naively misinterpret what she believed to be other people's reactions to her. The famous determination to isolate radium had an obsessive quality; likewise her practice of keeping a detailed record of domestic expenditure. ‘I feel everything very violently’, she once said, ‘with a physical violence.’ We know that Einstein was violent as a child and, later, towards his first wife. He said that Irène, who became a close friend, ‘got her way mainly by grumbling, like her mother’. Although it seems very possible that both mother and daughter had the syndrome, the evidence is stronger in the case of Irène. Since the syndrome occurs much more frequently in men than in women, perhaps in a proportion of five to one, these examples if confirmed would be particularly interesting."

“It seems that for success in science and art, a dash of autism is essential.”
Hans Asperger

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