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Einstein's Learning Disability

Many organizations that promote the interests of individuals with learning disabilities claim that Albert Einstein had a learning disability, and this claim has become widely accepted. You can read about Einstein's learning disabilities everywhere:

  • AGS, a company that provides educational materials to teachers, headlines an advertisement with “Even Einstein had a learning disability.”1

  • The New York Orton Dyslexia Society markets a T-shirt with the logo “Einstein Edison and Me.”2

  • The Connecticut Association for Children with Learning Disabilities, under the headline, “Some Kids with Learning Disabilities Do Okay for Themselves,” writes: “Years ago there was a three year old child who couldn't learn to talk. At eight he still couldn't read. His teaches thought he was retarded. He wasn't. Albert Einstein had a learning disability.”3

It is interesting to note that a review of biographical sources, however, provides little or no evidence to support this assertion. See for example “Einstein’s biographers disprove claim that he was dyslexic” and Marlin Thomas’ article “Was Einstein learning disabled? Anatomy of a myth,” published in 2004 in the Skeptics Society & Skeptic Magazine, a revised version of an article that originally appeared in the March/April 2000 issue of the Journal of Learning Disabilities.

Marlin Thomas concludes: “Given the meager basis for the claim that Einstein was learning disabled, one has to wonder why it has become so accepted. Part of the reason is the encouragement it gives all of us to know that even geniuses have shortcomings. The claim also enhances the prestige of learning disabled individuals. Any marginalized group benefits from having one of its members be a stellar figure in cultural history. These may be salutary, but the consequence of claiming that Einstein was learning disabled without historical evidence is harmful. It distorts the historical record and it questions the credibility of other claims regarding the learning disabilities of prominent persons.”


References:
1.) AGS, Journal of Learning Disabilities, 1991, vol. 24, 87.
2.) New York Orton Dyslexia Society, “Enhancing Self Esteem: New York branch gifts” [Advertising pamphlet], 1994.
3.) Connecticut Association for Children with Learning Disabilities, “Some Kids with Learning Disabilities Do Okay for Themselves” [Poster], 1994.