23 Famous People With Autism Who Accomplished Incredible Things

Published September 18, 2021
Updated October 13, 2021

While being on the spectrum can sometimes create challenges, these famous people with autism have been able to use their unique way of seeing the world to achieve great feats.

Some of these famous people with autism may surprise you. You may not have known that some of the best-known stars or some of the world’s most fascinating minds are actually on the spectrum:

Famous People With Autism
Famous People With Autism
Famous People With Autism
Alonzo Clemons
23 Famous People With Autism Who Accomplished Incredible Things
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"Much of the time," says animal welfare pioneer Temple Grandin, "I feel like an anthropologist on Mars."

Grandin has autism, but it would be hard to call her condition a disability. She has a Ph.D. in animal science and has spearheaded some of the most important and revolutionary ideas in livestock handling of the past century. Indeed, Grandin's innovative ideas were made possible by her unique way of seeing the world.

Still, life as a woman with autism is not without its challenges. For Grandin, relating to other people with conventional brains – "neurotypicals", as the autism community often calls them – can be very difficult.

It's part of the strange, often poorly understood realities of life with autism. It's a condition that can often go unnoticed; an invisible challenge that affects an estimated 1 in 59 people.

But it isn't always just a disability. It's a condition that can come with some incredible gifts – especially for these famous people with autism.

What Is Autism?

"Autism" is a very broad term. It describes a whole spectrum of conditions, all characterized by a few common traits, and just to name a few like repetitive behaviors and challenges with communication and social skills. For instance, you may have heard of or know of a person diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome, which is also considered a spectrum disorder.

Some famous people on the autism spectrum are high-functioning which means that they can better integrate into society – even if they often see things slightly differently from the rest of their peers.

Others, however, are more strongly affected. One-third of those with autism suffer from an intellectual disability, and about just as many are susceptible to epilepsy.

One could say that a person with autism is wired differently. Their brain's nerve cells and synapses are organized in a different way, and, as a result, process information uniquely.

Autism can sometimes leave people feeling isolated. "I do not fit in with the social life in my town or university. ... Most of my Friday and Saturday nights are spent writing papers and drawing," Temple Grandin has said. "My life would be horrible if I did not have my challenging career."

Famous People With Autism

But autism isn't without its gifts. The unique wiring of the brain often gives people with autism a whole different outlook on the world, letting them see it in ways other people wouldn't even consider. And with that unique perspective can there also be an incredible memory or an unrelenting focus on one's passions.

Perhaps that's how these famous people with autism were able to become successful. Experts have also posited that many of these famous people with autism throughout history may well have gone through most of if not all of their lives unaware that they even had the condition.

But without the unique point of view that autism creates some of the great breakthroughs in human history may never have happened. Without people to see things a little differently, our world would simply stay the same.

Next up in famous people with autism, read about Kim Peek, the savant who inspired Rain Man. Then, check out these historical figures with mental disorders that you may not have known about.

Mark Oliver
Mark Oliver is a writer and teacher, and father whose work has appeared on The Onion's StarWipe, Yahoo, and Cracked.
Jaclyn Anglis
Jaclyn is the senior managing editor at All That's Interesting. She holds a Master's degree in journalism from the City University of New York and a Bachelor's degree in English writing and history (double major) from DePauw University. She is interested in American history, true crime, modern history, pop culture, and science.