Saturday, February 25, 2012

Hans Asperger

Autism Light #155 is Dr. Hans Asperger.

Today we journey to Austria where we meet a giant in autism history. He is the physician and researcher responsible for first diagnosing the form of autism that would become known as Asperger's Syndrome. While our hero did not live to see that the fruit of his research on autism would travel around the world and that in his honor his name would be used in a diagnosis of the form of autism he studied, during his day he was dedicated to being a light for autism and was motivated by a love for children who had high functioning autism.

Dr. Hans Asperger was a pediatrician and child psychologist from Austria who worked at the University Children's Hospital in Vienna. He was born near Vienna, Austria on February 18, 1906 and died on October 21, 1980. The form of autism known as Asperger's Syndrome was named posthumously after Hans Asperger. Hans Asperger is an Autism Light because his work brought awareness to the form of autism that would eventually be labeled Aspergers (after his death). Hans Asperger will be added posthumously to the Autism Light Memorial Roll today.

Family: Hans Asperger married in 1935 and had 5 children (Source). 
  • Three of Hans Asperger's offspring took careers in agriculture and two became physicians (Source).
  • Hans Asperger, Jr. who works in the agricultural field said, "My father always said, 'I love the children' (Source). Mark Blaxil and Dam Olmsted wrote an article for Age of Autism,where they discuss their experiences with meeting Hans Asperger, Jr. in August, 2008.
  • Maria Asperger-Felder is a child psychiatrist in Switzerland who works with children with autism like her father did.
School: Hans Asperger and Sister Victorine had opened a school for children with autism near the end of World War II. Much of Hans Asperger's early work was destroyed when the school was destroyed by bombs near the end of the war. 

Research: During his lifetime Hans Asperger wrote over 300 publications of which a significant portion was based on his findings related to autism (Source). Hans Asperger provided the first definition in 1944 of what would later be called Aspergers by describing the condition as "a lack of empathy, little ability to form friendships, one-sided conversation, intense absorption in a special interest, and clumsy movements (Source)."  He also called his patients "Little Professors". A summary of an article he wrote in 1944 is at this link. After publishing this landmark study on autism the University of Vienna gave him a permanent tenured position.

The following is a video that Tony White did where he discusses what Hans Asperger said in his sentinel paper.

Quotations: Here are some beautiful quotations by Hans Asperger about autism:
  • "Not everything that steps out of line, and thus 'abnormal', must necessarily be 'inferior' (1938) (Source).
  • "It seems that for success in science or art, a dash of autism is essential" (Source).
  • "Able autistic individuals can rise to eminent positions and perform with such outstanding success that one may even conclude that only such people are capable of certain achievements (1944) (Source).
Language Barriers: Because Hans Asperger did not write in the English language, it took many decades for his work to be translated and reach the mainstream of English speaking areas. A British researcher named Lorna Wing first coined the phrase "Aspergers Syndrome" in 1981 (Source).  By the 1990's Hans Asperger's work had been translated sufficiently enough to take root on an international level.  Author: Hans Asperger's classic paper was translated and annotated and appears in the book Autism and Asperger Syndrome edited by Uta Frith in 1991.
International Asperger's Day: International Asperger's Day was held on February 18, 2012.  The annual observance is set to coincide with Hans Asperger's birthday. Kathie Harrington wrote a post at her blog on the observance of this day in 2012. Social Media: A Facebook page has been set up on Hans Asperger that can be liked at this link. Further Study: To read more biographical information about Hans Asperger visit these online websites.
Hans Asperger will be remembered for bringing awareness to what is considered the high functioning side of autism or commonly called Aspergers. Today we honor Hans Asperger for his research on autism and helping point out the different expressions of autism. As someone has said, if you meet one person with autism you meet one person with autism. We remember Hans Asperger's light for autism in the month of his birthday and throughout the year. Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism. The text image in this post was created with Cool Text: Logo and Graphics Generator. This post went into syndication on Autisable.


  1. If anyone related to Hans Asperger reads this post, please note we would be very interested in placing a photo of Hans Asperger with this post but have been able to find one in the public domain. Please email if you can help with a resource for a photo.


    1. That is a nice photo of Hans Asperger. The copyright is questionable so I haven't embeded it in my article. If anyone wants to view it go to