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Hans Asperger and his syndrome

Christopher Gillberg's latest blog entry

[Posted on 19 June, 2018 by Christopher Gillberg]

Given the increasingly heated nature of the “debate” around Hans Asperger, I want to point out that I am not in any way defending what Hans Asperger did during World War II.

However, it is my sincere contention that he was the one who first described the syndrome that is still referred to worldwide as Asperger’s syndrome. Even though the diagnosis no longer exists as a separate category in the DSM, one cannot simply pretend that Asperger never described “Asperger’s syndrome”. Throughout the history of science and culture, plenty of people with dark or even truly terrible traits have given names to syndromes, books, musical pieces and theories. And yet, no such traits can erase whatever positive or negative historical contribution these individuals have made. To do so would be to alter facts – in other words, revisionist history.

Asperger’s syndrome thus exists in the sense that there is a condition matching the one Asperger described. Rett’s syndrome was described by Andreas Rett. There has been no public outcry demanding that Rett’s name be removed from “his” syndrome (even though he is in fact just as “suspect” as Asperger and even though he was not “right” about his own syndrome, whereas Asperger on the other hand actually was right about all relevant aspects of “his” syndrome).

Recommended reading

Falk, D.  (2019). Non-complicit: Revisiting Hans Asperger’s Career in Nazi-era Vienna. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, (Epub ahead of print).

This is a blog. The purpose of the blog is to provide information and raise awareness concerning important issues. All views and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not necessarily shared by the GNC.