Neurodivergent Historical Geniuses

I am proud of all the progress our current social culture has made in knocking down the stigmas surrounding mental health/psychiatric disorders. Today there are more supporting, educational, and encouraging discussions than ever. This has led to a generation full of resources, funding for psychiatric disorder research, education, and acceptance. However, many psychiatric disorders are left in the dark, stuck with their stigmas because people seem to focus on the most relatable mental health issues. Many have left out serious neurodivergent disorders from their mental health considerations. I know this because I am, in fact, neurodivergent. This means I suffer from a psychiatric disorder. Some of these disorders that many suffer from are bipolar disorder, autism, clinical depression, and schizophrenia. Keep in mind there are many more disorders.

Below, I want to demonstrate the incredible individuals who have shaped our current society who were neurodivergent and yet, were the greatest geniuses of all time. 

  1. 1. Abraham Lincoln; Depression

    White House with American Flag

    The 16th United States president, Abraham Lincoln, has been reported to experience periods of sadness with suicidal thoughts. He was simply plagued by gloom and despair and that his obvious melancholy was his most obvious characteristic. Apparently as a young adult he mentioned suicide to peers. His moods were also apparent while he held his position in the White House. The stress of the Civil War and death of his son should not go unmentioned and certainly contributed to his diagnosis of clinical depression.

  2. 2. Vincent van Gogh; Depression, Bipolar Disorder, Schizophrenia


    Vincent van Gogh known for his incredible artistic abilities and was most famous for his oil paintings. His most famous oil painting is The Starry Night. The artist has been described as eccentric and having unstable moods. The American Journal of Psychiatry reported that van Gogh suffered from repetitive psychotic episodes. These episodes likely contributed to his eccentric behaviors. He suffered from recurrent episodes during the last two years of his life before committing suicide at age 37. Based on his reported behaviors and characteristics The American Journal of Psychiatry reports he must have had Bipolar Disorder and/or Schizophrenia. They also speculate he suffered from depression. 

  3. 3.  Charles Darwin; Agoraphobia, Panic Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

    Charles Darwin known for his theory of evolution which he proposed after his famous voyage to the Galapagos. After this voyage however, his behavior and health were seen to affect his well being.

    It is stated that he rarely left his home and then went on to live in isolation for the rest of his life. Scholars still debate what Darwin suffered from exactly, but they suggest he suffered from agoraphobia and panic disorder. Darwin was unsettled by changes in his routine, unplanned events, and visitors. He was even said to be neurotic at times. These behaviors led to his believed diagnosis.

  4. 4.   Ludwig van Beethoven; Bipolar Disorder

    Earbuds and Sheet Music

    One of the most influential composers of all time, Ludwig van Beethoven, also suffered from neurodiversity. Both The New England Journal of Medicine and The British Journal of Psychiatry suggest Beethoven suffered from Bipolar Disorder. In addition, these journals suggest that his swings from suicidal depression to manic phases can be heard in his music. His signature swings in dynamic and tempo supposedly correlated to his emotional state. Ultimately, it is said that Beethoven suffered from Bipolar Disorder.

  5. 5.   Sir Isaac Newton; Bipolar Disorder, Schizophrenia, Autism

    Sir Isaac Newton was one of the most famous mathematicians and scientists known in history. Apparently, he suffered from major ups of enraged mania and downs of depression in his moods, which supports his bipolar disorder diagnosis. Medical historians also explained that Newton experienced hallucinations and wrote letters full of delusions indicating schizophrenia. Historians also say he had the inability to connect with peers and demonstrated abnormal social behaviors giving rise to the idea Newton was also on the Autism spectrum.

I hope seeing these incredible figures help those of you struggling with mental health to feel inspired. Recognize how capable you are, and share your journeys to keep the discussions and education going. For those who may not deal with mental health and understand the issues of psychiatric disorders I want you to know we are more than our label, capable of the same things as you, and recognize these disorders have absolutely been incorrectly labeled. Many of us hide because we are afraid of the labels and stigmas that stem from them. So, recognizing that major historical figures were successful and brilliant I hope encourages you all to be an ally of this community that is constantly overlooked.