Did Livingstone have Asperger’s?

livingstoneSpending 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.

One thought on “Did Livingstone have Asperger’s?

  1. Des Yarde Martin

    I found your article on Livingstone very interesting in that it gave me a more balanced view of his life’s work. Being old enough to have grown up with the imperial version of his life (Dr Livingstone, I presume – and all that went before it), that formed one perspective that I have, and the other is a recent television documentary that gave a more critical account of Livingstone’s journeys of exploration and his apparent resort to send back falsely optimistic reports in order to acquire ongoing funding. From the Reform article, it seems your book covers both these facets of Livingstone’s work in a more holistic and compassionate way.

    While I’m here, let me say I also really like the interview with Paula Gooder.


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