Thomas Jefferson (April 13, 1743 - July 4, 1826) was an American Founding Father and the third President of the United States. Three of his accomplishments he wished to be recognized for are being the primary author of the Declaration of Independence, writing the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom, and founding the University of Virginia. Along with James Madison, he organized the Democratic-Republican party.
He was the first Secretary of the State, the second Vice President, and the third President. As President, he was best remembered for the Louisiana Purchase, the Lewis and Clark expeditions, and the ban of the importation of slaves. Jefferson was a polymath and also worked in other areas such as science, invention, philosophy, architecture, and music. He continues to be one of the most popular American Presidents, and is featured on the nickel and American 2 dollar bill.
After reading biographies on Thomas Jefferson, Norm Ledgin noticed similarities to his Autistic son and has suggested that he had Asperger's syndrome. He eventually ended up writing a book about it, which argued that he met five of the thirteen criteria (the minimum for a diagnosis is four) required for an Asperger's diagnosis according to the DSM-IV. Temple Grandin, Tony Attwood, and various historians have agreed with Ledgin's claim, saying that it has validity. In a sense, he was very similar to Einstein.
Jefferson was often considered shy and socially awkward by his contemporaries, and was regarded as an eccentric. His mannerisms were said to be very awkward and odd. He also struggled with eye contact, which Alexander Hamilton, his rival, once attacked him for and believed it to be proof that he was a dishonest man. Hamilton had also attacked Jefferson over apparently being expressionless. He also had a very unusual choice of clothes, and would often go to important meetings in his pajamas and slippers. Jefferson himself once said that he didn't care much about his clothing, and would prefer to dress for comfort rather than for appearance. He was often also described singing or humming to himself.
He was known to have speech disabilities and stuttered. His voice was described as being weak and high-pitched, and he was unable to talk louder than normal speaking voice. If he tried to yell, his voice would become inarticulate. As President, he only gave two speeches (both at his two inaugurations). It was said that he was inaudible except in the first three rows. This is why he strongly preferred writing over speaking. It is also widely believed that he was dyslexic. Because of this, when he was a child one of his teachers said that he was mentally ill and would never do anything in his life. His childhood home burned down in a fire, so it cannot be known if he exhibited any of the early symptoms. But according to family tradition, by the time he was five he read all of the books in his father's library.
Jefferson had very specific routines. He would take notes of everything, and eventually left over 40,000 of them by the time of his death. He was also terrible with money, and Ledgin suggests that his note-taking habits were why he died in debt. Jefferson was also very specific about measurements, and would often make measurements to the nearest eighth of an inch while other architects would usually only measure to the nearest inch. He also had the need to measure the distance he travelled. Jefferson would use a pedometer to count his steps when he walked, and he figured out how to calculate how many times a carriage wheel rotated each mile. He also soaked his feet in icy water every morning, since he believed that it would prevent him from getting the flu. There was no real basis that this prevented him from getting sick, so Ledgin suggested that he probably did it mainly for sensory issues.
Studies suggest that Autism is family-related. According to Ledgin, Jefferson likely got autism from his mother's side of the family, the Randolphs. The author also described other Randolphs with potentially autistic traits. Very little is known about his mother since Jefferson wrote very little about her. However, according to family tradition, she had a very similar personality to Thomas. Jefferson also had a sister named Elizabeth who was described as having intellectual disabilities, and the author suggests that it is possible that she was also Autistic. His younger brother, Randolph, was also said to have been somewhat mentally deficient and persistently childlike.