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Reform Magazine | December 7, 2023

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Did Livingstone have Asperger’s?

Did Livingstone have Asperger’s?

Spending a year with David Livingstone while writing his biography, I got the definite impression that he had Asperger’s Syndrome. I didn’t mention this in the book, or anywhere else much, for the sensible reason that I don’t know anything about it. My knowledge of Asperger’s comes mainly from a number of not very close acquaintances, and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.

Nevertheless, it was quite a strong impression – something I suppose to do with him being hugely focussed and independently minded, but not so strong on personal and emotional  communication.

So I was fascinated to come across a blog by Andrew Basden, who has read the book and has Asperger’s himself, asking David Livingstone – Did he exhibit Asperger’s Syndrome?

As well as discussing Livingstone directly, he writes in the about the “pain and problems of Asperger” in a way which sounds very familiar:

“…little attention to what people expect and accept…speak seriously…intensely annoyed and irritable when things don’t go as we expect…ideas out of the ordinary…find meaning in all…getting things [supposedly] out of proportion…don’t know what’s important in others’ eyes…”

That sounds uncannily like Livingstone to me. Perhaps my hunch was right.

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