This is week, (13th – 19th March 2023) is Neurodiversity Celebration Week, a worldwide initiative that challenges stereotypes and misconceptions about neurological differences. Here, one of our student content creators has shared her blog about famous and successful people with neurodivergent minds.
Neurodivergent disabilities can unfortunately sometimes viewed as a source of shame or pity, many even falsely believe that it lowers people’s potential. However, neurodivergent minds are capable of great achievements, not only despite, but because, of their disabilities. Here is a list celebrating some of the greatest neurodivergent minds of human history.
Bill Gates – Dyslexia & ADHD
Bill Gates attended Harvard University, enrolled in pre-law and took multiple computer science and mathematics courses, but dropped out to co-found Microsoft; being the chairman, CEO, president and software architect. He is now one of the richest people in the world, and was listed in Forbes as the wealthiest person alive for 20 years in a row. He is now the fourth-richest person in the world, with a net worth of $113 billion.
He has both dyslexia and ADHD and he has spoken openly about his struggles with mainstream education.
Emma Watson – ADHD
Emma Watson is a highly successful actress, best known amongst works like Harry Potter, Little Women, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and Beauty and the Beast. She has won multiple awards for her work, including the MTV Movie Awards and The Young Artist Award. She is also an activist for women’s rights, appointed as the UN ambassador and an advisor on G7 foreign policy. She was named by Time amongst the 100 most influential people in the world. She also has a degree from both Oxford and Brown University.
She was diagnosed with ADHD as a child and takes medication every day to handle her symptoms.
Tim Burton – Autism
Tim Burton is a filmmaker and screenwriter, known for his wacky and disturbing art. He began as an apprentice for Walt Disney Productions and then began making his own films. His famous works include Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Sweeney Todd, Corpse Bride and recent series Wednesday. He has won an Emmy, a Golden Globe, and has been nominated for three BAFTA awards and two Academy Awards.
He also has autism and many attribute his creative genius directly to his autism.
Albert Einstein – ADHD, Dyslexia & Autism?
Albert Einstein was a theoretical physicist, acknowledged to be the greatest physicist of all time. He developed the theory of relativity and made large contributions to the theory of quantum mechanics. He also developed the E=M equation. He has been awarded the Nobel Prize in physics and had an element in the periodic table named after him (Einsteinium). Upon his death, his brain was removed and studied by neuroscientists for the source of his genius.
Whilst neurodivergent disabilities were not researched enough to be diagnosed during the life of Einstein, modern specialists researching him have diagnosed him with ADHD, dyslexia and autism.
Simone Biles – ADHD
Simone Biles is an Olympic gymnast who holds 7 Olympic medals, 4 of them being gold. She also holds 25 world championship medals. In 2022, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Joe Biden.
She was diagnosed with ADHD as a child and has spoken openly about taking medication to help manage her symptoms. She uses her platform to fight against ADHD stigma, particularly the medication stigma present in sport, stating that “having ADHD, and taking medication for it, is nothing to be ashamed of.”
Emily Dickenson – Autism?
Emily Dickenson was an American poet and is considered one of the most important writers in literary history. She wrote nearly 2,000 poems and her poetry was extremely unconventional for her era, in both format and themes. When they were first published, they were significantly edited to be less controversial. The original poems were published many decades later, long after her death.
Modern scholars, following the developments in neurological sciences and the discovery of the autism diagnosis, studied her personal life, letters and correspondence and revealed she fitted the criteria for an autism diagnosis. Many of her poetry can be read following this development as struggles with an autistic life in the 1800’s.
Steve Jobs – Dyslexia
Steve Jobs originally began his career as a technician, before developing the Apple enterprise. He started the operation from his bedroom and sold his car to fund the technology circuits. Apple now stands at a net worth of $2.8 trillion, and Jobs was the co-founder, chairman and CEO of the company. At the time of his death, he held a net worth of $10.2 billion.
Steve Jobs was diagnosed with dyslexia as a child and struggled severely in school, dropping out of college, arguing that mainstream education lacked practical application. Throughout his life, he remained an advocate for breaking away from conventional forms of learning and practice; ‘you can’t connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect them looking backwards.’
Andy Warhol – Autism & Dyslexia?
Andy Warhol was a visual artist and film director and was a leading figure in a visual arts movement known as ‘pop art’. His works are amongst the highest selling artwork ever sold, valuing at $195 million for one piece. The Andy Warhol Museum holds a permanent archive collection of his works, and is the largest single-artist art museum in North America.
Specialists studying Warhol’s artwork, notebooks and personal correspondence have diagnosed him with dyslexia and autism. They believe his neurodiverse tendency for repetition is responsible for his great works of art.
Cara Delevingne – ADHD
Cara Delevingne is a model, actress and writer. She has modelled in London Fashion Week, New York Fashion Week, Paris Fashion Week, and Milan Fashion Week. She transitioned to acting later in life, starring in films such as Paper Towns, Suicide Squad and Valerian. She holds a net worth of $94.5 million.
She is diagnosed with ADHD and has talked openly about handling ADHD with a celebrity life. She spoke about how she battled the stigma of ADHD shame in the public eye and overcome the pressure to mask her disorder, saying that after she overcame the shame of her neurodiversity, ’I’m not in hell now.’