On This Day … 21 October

People (Deaths)

  • 1980 – Hans Asperger, Austrian physician and psychologist (b. 1906).

Hans Asperger

Johann ‘Hans’ Friedrich Karl Asperger (18 February 1906 to 21 October 1980) was an Austrian paediatrician, eugenicist, medical theorist, and medical professor for whom Asperger syndrome is named.

He is best known for his early studies on mental disorders, specifically in children. His work was largely unnoticed during his lifetime except for a few accolades in Vienna, and his studies on psychological disorders acquired world renown only posthumously. He wrote over 300 publications, mostly concerning a condition he termed autistic psychopathy (AP).

There was a resurgence of interest in his work beginning in the 1980s, and due to his earlier work on autism spectrum disorders, Asperger syndrome (AS), was named after him. Both Asperger’s original paediatric diagnosis of AP and the eponymous diagnosis of AS that was named after him several decades later have been controversial.

The controversy has intensified since revelations that, during the Nazi years, Asperger sent at least two disabled children to the Am Spiegelgrund clinic, knowing they would be the subject of cruel experiments and be likely to be euthanised under the Nazi programme named, post-bellum, ‘Aktion T4’.

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