Autism Hall of Fame
A Glimpse at Greatness
The world is a better and more colorful place due in large part to the incredible contributions of individuals on the Autism Spectrum and those with autistic tendencies. In our Autism Hall of Fame we salute these incredible men and women who have either been diagnosed as autistic or have identifiable autistic traits and thank them for making the world a better place to live in!
The community of people who “have autism” prefer to be referred to as “being autistic”.
This avoids the implication of having a disease or disorder.
NOVEMBER 9, 1731 | BENJAMIN BANNEKER
Benjamin was an author, surveyor, mathematician, landowner, astronomer, and farmer. His knowledge of astronomy led him to author six years worth of Benjamin Banneker’s Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia Almanack which predicted eclipses and planetary conjunctions as well as tide tables for the Chesapeake Bay region and “judgment of the weather, festivals, and other remarkable days…” Banneker was also a member of the survey team that marked the original borders of Washington, DC.
NOVEMBER 12, 1996 | MICHAEL "MIKEY" BRANNIGAN
Mikey Brannigan is a track and field star who was prevented from competing on collegiate teams because his Autism kept him from meeting NCAA academic standards. Despite that, however, he worked with a private coach while attending community college, and in 2015 he ran at the IPC Athletics World Championships in Qatar where he took first place in the T20 1500 meter run with a time of 3:56.50. In 2017 he was named Male Paralympic Athlete of the Year by the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee.
OCTOBER 1, 1987 | JASON "J-MAC" McELWAIN
Jason is an amateur athlete and public speaker who rocketed into the spotlight in 2006 when his high school basketball coach put him into a varsity basketball game during the last four minutes, where he made six three-point shots and one two-pointer. Since 2006, numerous high schools have taken up the practice of putting students with disabilities into games.
AUGUST 25, 1958 | TIM BURTON
Tim Burton is a Golden Globe Award winning filmmaker, animator and artist whose style tends towards gothic fantasy and horror. He has directed 19 films and has written four books and counting.
JUNE 16, 1865 | WILLIAM BUTLER YEATS
MAY 6, 1994 | ALEXIS WINEMAN
Alexis is the 2012 Miss Montana winner and won America’s Choice award in the 2012 Miss America pageant. She is the first woman to compete in Miss America who is on the autism spectrum. She is a vocal autism advocate.
APRIL 29, 1954 | JERRY SEINFELD
“I’m very literal. When people talk to ma and they use expressions, sometimes I don’t know wjat they’re saying. But I don’t see it as dysfunctioal. I just think of it as an alternate mindsety.”
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MARCH 14, 1879 | ALBERT EINSTEIN
MARCH 9, 1943 | BOBBY FISCHER
Bobby Fischer is thought to be the greatest chess player of all time. At the age of 15 he became the youngest Grand Master Chess Player in history. He left chess at the top of his game in 1972 and went into seclusion until 1992 when he had a rematch beating the gentlemen he beat in 1972.
MARCH 6, 1475 | MICHELANGELO
Michelangelo was an Italian painter, sculptor and poet during Renaissance times. His work is visible worldwide to this day including famous favorites such as The Statue of David and the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
JANUARY 30, 1942 | MARTY BALIN
Marty Balin was the one of the lead singers and songwriters and founders of musical sensations Jefferson Airplane and Jefferson Starship. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996.
FEBRUARY 2, 1882 | JAMES JOYCE
James Joyce was an Irish author. His work included the book Ulysses. Joyce attended University College Dublin and later resided in Paris and began studying medicine. He left his medical studies to pursue his first love, writing.
FEBRUARY 7, 1812 | CHARLES DARWIN
Charles Darwin was an English biologist and naturalist who is best known for his work in the science of evolution. His book, Origin of the Species, is still read by students and scholars alike.
APRIL 18, 1959 | JIM EISENREICH
Jim won the 1989 Kansas City Royals Player of the Year but it did not come easily. He started playing with the Minnesota Twins in 1982 but medical issues caused him to leave the game in 1984. His dedication and determination to return to the game, along with the support of medical staff and loved ones, allowed him to fulfill his dream and return to the game he loves!
JULY 17, 1989 | CLAY MARZO
Clay, a professional surfer has always felt safe and comfortable in the water. Clay is one of the world’s best surfers and had been awarded Water Man of the Year and Maneuver of the Year at the Surfer Poll Awards. When he is on the water it does not matter that he struggles with speaking to others, and meeting new people because he becomes one with the water.
“I like to express myself a lot in the water and take my energy out on it. Whereas on land, I kinda just come in to eat and sleep, then go back out on the water and have fun again.”
AUGUST 13, 1957 | JOHN ELDER ROBISON
John is a renowned engineer who created the special effects guitars that KISS used in the 1970s before going on the work developing electronic games and then fire alarm systems. John has written several books relating to life with Asperger’s.
“And now I know it is perfectly natural for me not to look at someone when I talk. Those of us with Asperger’s are just not comfortable doing it. In fact, I don’t really understand why it’s considered normal to stare at someone’s eyeballs.”
AUGUST 28, 1965 | SATOSHI TAJIRI
Satoshi is the original genius behind Pokemon. Pokemon players “collect” printed playing cards or virtual creatures that are hiding in the world around them. Satoshi collected bugs as a young man and has said that he wanted the games to give children the same joy as he had during his bug collecting. People on the autistic spectrum tend to take up collecting as a hobby, so Satoshi gave them and everyone else a gift that only he could create: a whole new thing to collect.
“When you’re a kid and get your first bike, you want to go somewhere you’ve never been before. That’s like Pokémon. Everybody shares the same experience, but everybody wants to take it someplace else. And you can do that.”
AUGUST 29, 1947 | DR. TEMPLE GRANDIN
Dr. Grandin is a Professor of Animal Science and a vocal advocate and active member of the Autism community. In 2010 she was listed in the “Heroes” category on the Time 100 list of most influential people in the world.
“The most interesting people you’ll find are ones that don’t fit into your average cardboard box. They’ll make what they need, they’ll make their own boxes.”
SEPTEMBER 8, 1933 | DONALD TRIPLETT
Donald was the first person officially diagnosed as autistic. Labeled as “Case 1” by Leo Kanner, he was able to identify notes played on a piano and perform rapid mental multiplication. He was described by his father as, “socially withdrawn but interested in number patterns, music notes, letters of the alphabet, and U.S. president pictures”.
OCTOBER 10, 1731 | HENRY CAVENDISH
Henry was a theoretical chemist in the 1700s. This English philosopher and scientist discovered hydrogen. He was extremely shy and spent much of his time alone in his lab and was known for his incredible accuracy and precision in his research.
“Young people must break machines to learn how to use them; get another made!”
OCTOBER 28, 1955 | BILL GATES
Bill is the founder of Microsoft. As the founder and visionary behind the world’s largest software company, his contributions to technology are undeniable but he is also a champion of those in need. His foundation believes, “All lives have equal value. We are impatient optimists working to reduce inequity” so he works to provide healthcare and education for those in the more dire need.
“Don’t compare yourself with anyone in this world… if you do so, you are insulting yourself.”
DECEMBER 1, 1935 | WOODY ALLEN
Woody is an actor and a comedian who is proud of his “quirky ways”. This long-time member of the Hollywood community worked his way up from writing jokes for others to perform to being an Academy Award-winning Director and actor himself.
“The talent for being happy is appreciating and liking what you have, instead of what you don’t have.”
DECEMBER 3, 1960 | DARRYL HANNAH
Darryl is an actress and environmental advocate. As a vocal and strong supporter of those on the Autism Spectrum, she is has developed a routine that works for her. She does not attend premières or give live interviews but she advocates for others as they find their own path. Her love of movies took her from an isolated and unhappy childhood to a world where she could escape into a reality of her own creations and she hopes everyone can find a path that brings them joy.
“And I know that the younger generation is doing things that are so ingenious. And for them it’s not a matter of a political belief or an environmental stance. It’s really just common sense.”
DECEMBER 10, 1830 | EMILY DICKINSON
Emily was a prolific poet who lived most of her life in self-imposed isolation. She was often considered eccentric and most of her relationships were conducted solely through written words. She preferred to be alone with her writing. Shy and uncomfortable with significant praise and attention, she kept to herself and most of her poems were not discovered until after her death.
“Hope is the thing with feathers, that perches in the soul, and sings the tune without the words, and never stops at all.”
DECEMBER 19, 1991 | TOMMY DES BRISAY
Tommy completed a half marathon in only 1:14:55. He is also an avid kayaker. This Paralympian likes to sing Disney songs and recite movie lines as he runs. Tommy’s dad Peter says that since he started running Tommy is less anxious and much happier!
When asked what autism means, he replied, “Autism means friendship!”