In a recent study published in the Journal of Medical Biography, Muhammad Arshad and Michael Fitzgerald suggest that the famous Italian artist, Michelangelo, may have exhibited symptoms of Asperger’s disorder or higher functioning autism during his lifetime. Arshad, a medical expert from Whiston Hospital in Prescott, Merseyside, and Fitzgerald, a professor at Trinity College Dublin, believe that Michelangelo had difficulty forming relationships, which is a behaviour commonly associated with autism. They write, "He was a loner, self-absorbed and gave his undivided attention to his masterpieces – a feature of autism." Additionally, the artist was also known to be paranoid, narcissistic, and schizoid.
The analysis of historical figures’ medical ailments has become a popular activity for many medical practitioners. From diagnosing biblical figures to famous politicians, medical examiners have examined numerous corpses through the years to determine the medical conditions of historical figures. In this vein, medical experts have diagnosed Samson, the biblical strongman, with antisocial personality disorder because of his aggressive tendencies. They believe Herod the Great suffered from chronic kidney disease and gangrene, Alexander the Great from ocular tortiocollis, and Alfred the Great from piles. Even President Lincoln has been diagnosed with Marfan syndrome.
According to Dr Arshad, Michelangelo exhibited symptoms of rigidity and control in all aspects of his life. He attempted to control his staff, family, money, and time to an unusual degree. Additionally, his eating habits, sleep patterns, and work habits were erratic. Many medical examiners in the past have noted his pathological fears and morbid melancholy, which lends some support to the suggestion made by Dr Arshad and Fitzgerald. One expert even described Michelangelo as a "depressive, schizoid, bionegative person with paranoid traces, with a homosexual tendency." However, the two scientists believe that Michelangelo’s behaviour is symptomatic of Asperger’s syndrome, and they suggest that other famous individuals with the disorder may include the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein and Isaac Newton.