After a long, distinguished career as a practicing psychologist and medical specialist, Hans Asperger, professor of psychology at Vienna University, died in 1980.
Starting in the 1930s, Asperger made a name for himself as a pediatrician, specialising in the mental disorders of children and was a pioneer in the study of autism.
He found that severely autistic children and adults were clumsy, communicated awkwardly with others, had poor eye contact, limited facial expressions and bodily gestures, and failed to appreciate other’s feelings. Many autistic adults had obsessive or repetitive routines or interests and were blind to fashion.
In the 1940s, Asperger developed a scale of autism, ranging from serious “autistic psychopathy” to a much milder form which he defined as a distinct condition.
He earned a big reputation in Europe but, because most of his work was published in German, he was little known to the English-speaking world.
English-speaking clinical psychologists discovered Asperger only after his death. They thought so well of him that they named the milder version of autism after him in the 1990s, calling it Asperger’s Syndrome.
Today, over 30 million people worldwide are reckoned to have the condition.