Strange, isn’t it, how you’re reading something and a phrase catches your eye.
The film The Imitation Game went on cinematic release in South Africa yesterday. It’s about Alan Turing’s life, his work at Bletchley Park as a cryptanalyst, his homosexuality and his death. The local newspaper printed a review of The Imitation Game written by Ann Hornaday of the Washington Post.
While reading the review, several things jumped out at me. The first was that, according to the film, as a boy Turing would separate his vegetables “into compulsively arranged colour-coded piles.” The next is that Turing found it “so difficult to break the signs and social codes of his colleagues”. The third is that he suggested the rest of the Bletchley Park team be fired so he can make better use of their salaries, and that by way of atonement, he brought them apples.
Admittedly, films are notorious for “exaggerating” things, but those foibles are signs of autism. Was Turing autistic?
Out of curiosity, I went to the Wikipedia pages for The Imitation Game and Alan Turing. The Imitation Game’s page didn’t really have anything, but Turing’s page mentioned Jack Good quoted by Ronald Lewin.
“In the first week of June each year he would get a bad attack of hay fever, and he would cycle to the office wearing a service gas mask to keep the pollen off. His bicycle had a fault: the chain would come off at regular intervals. Instead of having it mended he would count the number of times the pedals went round and would get off the bicycle in time to adjust the chain by hand. Another of his eccentricities is that he chained his mug to the radiator pipes to prevent it being stolen.”
Who wears a gas mask to stop hayfever? An autistic, that’s who.
I realise that none of this constitutes proof that Turing was autistic, and that it’s not wise to retrospectively diagnose historical figures, but I’m going to do just that.
I believe that a strong case can be made that Alan Turing was autistic.