Discovering Asperger’s Syndrome

By Phin Upham

As a young man growing up in Austria, Hans Asperger struggled to relate to his peers. He had a deep and intense passion for the Austrian poet Franz Grillparzer, but his friends were completely disinterested. He would recite lines of poetry, and often quoted himself in third person. It was little more than an odd quirk to casual observers.

Hans would go on to study medicine at the University of Vienna, learning under the tutelage of Franz Hamburger. He began to practice at the University Children’s Hospital in Vienna, graduating in 1931. He went on to become the school’s director of special education.

He served in the Axis medical corps during World War II. His younger brother was killed at Stalingrad, and he attempted to open a school for children during that time. The war claimed it, as it had so many structures across Europe. In 1944, he summed upped observations he’d made on autistic psychopathy. He noticed that four boys he studied showed some symptoms that were similar to his own. All boys had an intense interest within a particular subject, nearly all had clumsy movements and all had difficulties associating with others. Naturally, this delighted Asperger, who referred to his subjects as his “Little Professors”.

Asperger passed before his work was widely recognized, due in large part to access of information and difficulty in translation. As a result, Asperger’s Syndrome was recognized posthumously. The papers were also hotly debated for their failure to explain the fundamentals of the disease. Still his birthday of February 18th is International Asperger’s Day.

About the Author: Phin Upham is an investor at a family office/ hedgefund, where he focuses on special situation illiquid investing. Before this position, Phin Upham was working at Morgan Stanley in the Media and Telecom group. You may contact Phin on his Phin Upham website or LinkedIn page.