Thursday, February 17, 2005

Asperger watch

Add Harvard President Larry Summers to the list of usual Asperger suspects. Summers, from a family of famous economists, is the nephew of Nobelist Paul Samuelson and nephew in-law of Nobelist Kenneth Arrow. (Summers' father, an econ prof at Penn, changed the family name to avoid anti-semitism.) Summers started as a math major at MIT, but switched to econ after seeing the competition.

From the Times review of a new book on Harvard and its president:

Although Mr. Bradley is convinced that he has written an institutional portrait, the book is a remarkably personal. Alongside numerous critiques of Mr. Summer's table manners - Mr. Bradley judges him a "sloppy eater" - the author speculates early on in the book that the Harvard president may have Asperger's syndrome, a condition that renders him socially autistic.

"I'm neutral on it," he said. "I'm not a doctor. I don't feel qualified to say. I do think the explanation has 'explanatory power,' as one of my Harvard professors used to say."

The article suggests that there will be a forthcoming vote of no-confidence in Summers from the Harvard faculty. I've avoided talking about the flap over Summers' comments on gender differences in science and math ability (it's a no-win subject, as Summers has found), but here is a good summary page.

I discussed Asperger's syndrome here and here.

1 comment:

DB said...

WSJ 2/15/05: "A Radical Approach to Autism" (chelation therapy).
Newsweek cover story: "Babies and Autism"
Science Channel 2/23/05 8pm: "Brainman" on Daniel Tammet, "a highly functioning savant [with] many of the traits of autism"

Sounds like the syndrome du jour!

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