The Savant Syndrome

The Savant Syndrome

The Savant Syndrome

Showing posts with label brain. Show all posts

Ellen Boudreaux

Ellen Boudreaux is a blind autistic savant with exceptional musical abilities. 
She can play music perfectly after hearing it just once, and has a such a huge repertoire of songs in her head that a newspaper reporter once tried to "stump Ellen" by requesting that she played some obscure songs and failed. 
Ellen knew them all.
Ellen has two other savant skills that are unusual. 
First, despite her blindness, she is able to walk around without ever running into things. 
As she walks, Ellen makes little chirping sounds that seems to act like a human sonar.
Ellen has an extremely precise digital clock ticking in her mind. 
To help overcome her fear of the telephone, Ellen's mom coaxed her to listen to the automatic time recording (the "time lady") when she was eight. 
From then on, Ellen knows the exact hour and minute, any time of the day without ever having seen a clock nor have the concept of the passing of time explained to her.
“With a song in her heart, music is her bridge to the world” the heading reads in the Sacramento Bee newspaper on January 18, 2.001 written by Bob Sylva. 
The writer tries to “stump Ellen” with request after request and cannot. 
“By any measure of musical virtuosity and genius, this is a remarkable performance. 
For Ellen, it’s a form of child’s play” the writer concludes.
Ellen is blind, with an astonishing musical ability, superior spatial sense and remarkable memory. 
Her sense rhythm is pervasive. 
She is driven by time as if a digital clock is incessantly running in her head. 
But, of course, she has never seen one. 
At precisely the moment her favorite news program begins she will bound into the room from wherever she is, flip on the TV and the announcer will start the program, as if on clue from Ellen. 
Ellen plays piano, guitar, and now the keyboard and soloist with a Rock and Roll band in her hometown that has become well known in the area. 
Among these multiple instruments and many musical interests she has developed a vast repertoire. 
It is very hard to stump Ellen, as the newspaper writer found out in a flawless recollection by Ellen of a variety of tunes and styles ranging from the Supremes to “Dueling Banjos” (in which she plays both parts) to “Ellen’s tour de force orchestration of ‘Whole Lotta Love’, the Led Zeppelin apassionata in which she replicates, uncannily, every voice, instrument and studio sound effect.”
Ellen is a startling example of the rare yet reoccurring triad of blindness, mental handicap and musical genius.
Ellen was born prematurely in 1.957 and developed the blindness of prematurity (retrolental fibroplasias) following birth. 
Ellen developed slowly. 
When she was 4 months old doctors confirmed what the parents suspected she was blind.
From the very beginning she was aware of large objects, wall, fences and buildings from a distance of 6 feet or more and insisted on going to them and touching them. 
Her father noted that from those early years on she has been able to walk in thick, strange forests without running into trees. 
As Ellen learned to navigate she made a constant little chirping sound, like her own form of personal radar.
At age 4½ psychological testing provided a score of 40 on the Vineland Social Maturity Scale which suggested an estimated IQ, at that time, of between 30-50. 
The family became very determined to find the best educational and vocational opportunities for their daughter and enrolled her in the San Juan Unified School District in Fair Oaks, California. 
Ellen did extremely well in school and has proceeded through a series of steps in the special education program, including now Adult Special Education programming. 
Speech therapy began in 1.983 and progress in language development was impressive as well, with no sacrifice of her artistic skill.
Ellen’s musical skill and memory are prodigious. 
Her interest in music began as early as 6 months of age. At about age 4, 
Ellen surprised her mother by picking out some tunes on a small electronic organ. 
At age 7, a teacher advised her parents to get Ellen a piano. 
They did and the music has poured forth ever since. 
Ellen now constructs complicated chords to accompany melodies she hears on the radio or the stereo. 
She has transposed the orchestra and chorus of Evita to the piano with complex, precise chords. 
She reproduces the crowd and mob sounds with intense dissonances using both hands. 
That rendition is an impressive, and lengthy, performance.
Ellen taught herself guitar by spending countless hours going up and down each string, memorizing the tones that each fingering produced and experimenting with chords. 
She is driven by and enamored of rhythm of any type, form or origin. 
She loves to improvise and after listening to almost any album will begin to play chords with it, improvising very unusual but striking accompaniments. 
She will play what she has heard in one form such as jazz, then in another style, perhaps classical. 
She will transpose rock and roll to a waltz form in three-quarter time. 
She is fascinated with radio and television commercials and will immediately transpose those to the piano as well.

Antonio Magliabecchi

Antonio Magliabecchi was a famous librarian, scholar and librarian born in Florence in 1.633.

Son of Marco Magliabecchi, and Ginevra Baldorietta Bourgeois.

Although Magliabecchi was apprentice goldsmith and worked it until his fourteenth year, Michele Ermini, librarian of Cardinal de 'Medici, recognized his talent and taught him latin, greek and hebrew.

In 1.673 he became librarian of Cosimo III de 'Medici. Magliabecchi became the central figure in the literary life of Florence, and scholars from many countries wanted to meet and correspond with him.

Although its important position given enough recognition, is remembered more for their personal abilities, and their great ability to memorize all what he reads.

He has been described as a literary glutton, and more rational librarian maniac since read each and every one of the books that fell into their hands.

His personal library contained about 40,000 books and 10,000 manuscripts.

His house was literally overwhelmed by books, the stairs were full of them, and even reached the front porch.

Have been told many stories about his amazing memory, which was "like wax to receive and marble to save".

One of the best known of these stories says when asked Cosimo extremely rare book, he replied: "Sir, there is only one copy of that book in the world, is in the library of the Great Lord in Constantinople, and is the tenth first book of the second shelf to the right as you enter. "

In worldly matters, Magliabecchi was extremely confused. 

Even forgot to claim his salary for a year. 

He wore his clothes until he fell because he thought it was a waste of time to change clothes every night: "Life is so short, and there are so many books."

He welcomed all scholars who asked, provided they do not disturb you while working.

I had a special craze for the Jesuits.

One day a man told the Palazzo Riccardi and said: "Here came the new birth of learning", and then, turning to the college of the Jesuits: "there came to bury him."

It was a wild looking man, very careless with himself.

He refused to be expected, and rarely off his clothes to go to bed.

Your dinner is usually based on three boiled eggs and a little water.

Had a small peephole in his door, he could see all those who came to him, and if he did not want his company, the rejected.

It is said that never in his life he left Florence to go more than Pratz, where he accompanied the Cardinal Norris to see a manuscript.

He died at age 81 (in 1.714) in the monastery of Santa Maria Novella.

He donated his books to the Grand Duke to be used as a public library, and his fortune was donated to the poor.

In 1.861, King Victor Emmanuel joined his collection, known as private Magliabechiana the Grand Duchy, forming the National Library.

Leanne Rowe

Woman acquired a french accent after a hit on the head

Leanne Rowe, an Australian woman who suffered eight years ago in a traffic accident, began speaking english with a slight french accent after recovering from injuries sustained in the back and head.

As explained by Dr. Robert Newton, a woman, born on the island of Tasmania (South Australia), developed what is known as 'foreign accent syndrome', the second known in the country and the number 62 on speaking countries English in the last 70 years.

"Rowe studied French in school, but never been to France and do not have French friends," said one of the doctors who knows her from childhood.

"I had an Australian accent normal" he added.

His daughter Kate, meanwhile, says that now it is she who speaks publicly about his mother.

According to experts, this syndrome, first described in 1907, is listed as a side effect of a brain injury that affects the part that controls speech and manifests itself in a distortion of the joint planning and coordination processes.

Dr Newton says in the last 70 years there have been 62 cases recorded worldwide. 

He says Ms Rowe is one of two Australians with the syndrome. 

"She had a normal, if you like, Australian accent for the whole time I knew her before that," he said. "

She'd done French at school but she'd never been to France, didn't have any French friends at all. "

She turned up after having a nasty head injury eight years ago speaking with a French accent 

I couldn't believe my ears." 

She says it occurs when tissue in the speech area of the brain is damaged. 

She says it is not actually a French accent, it just sounds like it to the listener. "

It's just an accident of chance that happens to that person that what happens to their speech happens to overlap with the features of a known accent," she says.

Elisabeth Sulser

In Zurich, there’s a woman with incredible sensory powers. 

When Elisabeth Sulser hears music, she can see it and taste it too

She is a synesthete. 

In the course of a 2.004 and 2.005 neuro psychological research project at the University of Zurich, in which she participated as a test subject.

Elisabeth Sulser was identified as having an uncommon form of synesthesia, a story which went through the international media.

Elisabeth Sulser is one of the “protagonists“. 

She tells of her life as a synesthete, meets with other synesthetes in England and is interviewed in the role of a test person by researchers at Oxford University.

Ralf Isau is an author and fantasist. In his new book about synesthesia, Die Dunklen, he has given Elisabeth Sulser's talent that of “seeing” musical tones to his main character.

What is synesthesia?

Synesthesia is a phenomenon whereby the direct or sympathetic excitation of a single sense organ simultaneously produces not one, but multiple sensations. 

In music : colour synesthesia, for example, one of the more common forms, aural sensations such as tones or words also produce visual perceptions. 

Similarly, visual stimuli may produce secondary auditory sensations, or sounds may actually be “felt”. 

Famous synesthetes

Numerous artists and musicians have been identified as possessing synesthetic abilities, including Alexander Scriabin, Frank Zappa, Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky.

What form does Elisabeth Sulser’s synesthesia take?

When Elisabeth Sulser hears music or even individual tones, she finds that what she is hearing is projected onto a “screen” in her head. 
The result is a constantly changing, kaleidoscopic painting. 

Colours change with the tempo, and the forms reflect musical figures: C – red, D – yellow, E – brown, F – green, G – dark blue, A – light blue, B – grey, C sharp – pink, D sharp – maroon, F sharp – violet, G sharp – turquoise, B flat – gold.

For Elisabeth Sulser intervals have a taste : that is, she perceives tones separated by less than an octave as a taste on her tongue. 

A minor second “tastes” sour; a minor third, salty; a major third, sweet; and a fifth like a glass of water. 

A minor sixth tastes like whipping cream, a major sixth like half-and-half; a minor seventh is bitter, similar to a major second; and a major seventh is sour, like a minor second.

Christophe Pillault

Christophe Pillault Olivet France was born in Iran in 1.982.

An autistic savant, he is unable to talk, walk or feed himself.

He discovered painting, using his hands though unable to use his fingers functionally.

He began painting in 1.993.

His capacities were discovered by his special education teacher and then encouraged by his mother.

Christophe does not talk but expresses himself through his paintings.

A singular figure in art, he paints with his hands and uses acrylic on paper, canvas and cardboard.

His artwork was introduced to the United States by Dr. Becker in April, 1.988 at the Mills Pond House Gallery in Smithtown, Long Island, New York.

His paintings are striking due to the imagery, fascinating, improbable, and sometimes mystic characters represented.

It appears often that he is painting ethereal beings.
It is a strange world in which we can penetrate with the renewed wonder of childhood.

Christophe has exhibited throughout France, Italy, Japan and the U.S.

He is a member of several artist societies. One of his paintings is featured on the cover of the 2.003 DAN (Defeat Autism Now) Conference Program.

His art is also included in Art of the mind, the permanent art collection of the M.I.N.D. Institute in California.

Christopher Taylor

There’s a book by Smith & Tsimpli from 1.995 called “The Mind of a Savant : Language Learning and Modularity.” 

This excerpt is from the textbook “Introduction to Language” seventh edition, by Fromkin, Rodman, and Hyams. 

His last name is not given in the textbook, though, but it sounds like him. 

Christopher has a nonverbal IQ between 60 and 70 and must live in an institution because he is unable to take care of himself. 

The tasks of buttoning a shirt, cutting his fingernails, or vacuuming the carpet are too difficult for him. 

However, linguists find that his “linguistic competence in his first language is as rich and sophisticated as that of any native speaker.” 

Furthermore, when given written texts in some fifteen to twenty languages, he translates them quickly, with few errors, into English. 

The languages include Germanic languages such as Danish, Dutch, and German; Romance languages such as French, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish; as well as Polish, Finnish, Greek, Hindi, Turkish, and Welsh. 

He learned these languages from native speakers who used them in his presence, or from grammar books. 

Christopher loves to study and learn languages. 

Little else is of interest to him. 

His situation strongly suggests that his linguistic ability is independent of his general intellectual ability.    

Henriett Seth F.

Born : Fajcsák Henrietta
27 October 1.980 in Eger, Hungary
Occupation : Autistic savant artist
Literary movement : Autistic art


She is a Hungarian autistic savant poet, writer and artist became world famous with one book title Autizmussal önmagamba zárva ("Closed into myself with autism") and her one sentence on many cubes from her book made one monodrama, title Nemsenkilény, monológ nemmindegyembereknek ("Notanobodycreature"), before the age of 30 worldwide and internally having regard to her childhood autism and heart disorders as mitral valve prolapse, three eye disorders as nearsightedness, astigmatism, strabismus, orthopedic diseases and other physical disorders. 

She gave up creative music career altogether at the age of 13, creative writing altogether at the age of 25 and she also gave up creative painting altogether before the age of 27. 

Her organization was attacked by cancer in 2.009. Henriett Seth F.' s life and arts can be compared Arthur Rimbaud' s life and arts after her "Little Wassily Kandinsky" 's early childhood savant syndrome years. 

Henriett universal effect of all that was what we now call autism and savant syndrome, see Darold Treffert, University of Wisconsin Medical School, Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, U.S.A.: Henriett Seth F. - Rain Girl and National Talents Support Council, Particular Educational Talents Support Council, Budapest, Hungary: Henriett Seth F. - The Rain Girl Artist.


Henriett did not make eye contact in her early childhood. 

In 1.987 all the primary schools in her town refused her admission application because of her communication problems; she also did not make eye contact. 

She was placed in a music and art class, but she never sang songs so in 1.989 sent mentally handicapped primary school by two teachers, but she remained music and art class.

She played flute at age 8 and played contrabass at the age of 10-12, and until the age of 13 she was in many concerts in the Garrison and Soldiers of Club (in Hungarian: Helyorsegi Klub). 

She gave up creative music career altogether at the age of 13.

She was also found to have echolalia, communications problems and repetitive behaviors, see Henriett as a young girl - on the first digitized videos of childhood autism and savant syndrome on Hungary - on investigations and language development with her photos of paintings by Hungarian Autism Research Group, Budapest, 2.002. 

She was diagnosed with childhood autism by Hungarian Autism Research Group (Autizmus Alapítvány és Kutatócsoport) and two psychiatries of Eger.

Henriett had a long history of visual art, poetry and writing in her childhood; beginning at age nine and at age thirteen. 

Henriett universal effect of all that was what we now call autism and savant syndrome, she painted autistic art paintings to the House of Arts, Eger, and Hotel Stadion of Budapest in the East-European Autism Conference, 2.004.

She won the Géza Gárdonyi Prize at the age of 18 for her art and literature. 

Henriett went to Eszterhazy College at the age of 18 to the Psychology Institution but her communication and her behavior problems pensioned with a diagnosis of childhood autism in 2.002. 

She has Raven IQ above 140 and Mawi IQ above 120 with part some under IQ 90, so she was considered handicapped genius, a perfect example of childhood autism and savant syndrome, see disability support.

In 2.005, she wrote a book, Autizmussal önmagamba zárva ("Closed into myself with autism"), that was published by the Hungarian Autism Research Group and Ministry for National Cultural Heritage.

Henriett was invited to the Friderikusz Sándor's documentary film, to Szólás Szabadsága ("Freedom of Speech"), in 2.005, that was seen by 700,000 people. 

This documentary film was entitled Esőlány ("Rain Girl"). 

In 2.006 Henriett wrote one novel, Autizmus - Egy másik világ ("Autism - Another World"). 

That work was published by University of Pécs, in the New Galaxy anthology. 

Henriett won the 6th-place prize in the International Literature Competition in 2.000, at the age of 19. 

She came in first in 2.001, at the age of 20 (by International Alliance of Hungarian Writers). 

Henriett wrote novels and poems during her childhood, as well as in college life to the periodical Esőember ("Rain Man"), 2.006.

She showed her last art work in Brody Sandor Public Library in June, 2.007.

She gave up creative writing altogether at the age of 25 and she also gave up creative painting altogether before the age of 27. 

She did not sold work of childhood and teen age literature and visual art her mother's advice but her own room transformed childhood autism and savant syndrome memorial room at age 30, see Henriett's high-definition video.

She also had three autoimmune disorders and now living with childhood autism, heart disorders as mitral valve prolapse, three eye disorders as nearsightedness, astigmatism, strabismus, orthopedic diseases and other physical disorders. 

Her organization was attacked by cancer in 2.009.

In 2.010, Orlai Produkciós Iroda made a monodrama, Nemsenkilény, monológ nemmindegyembereknek ("Notanobodycreature"), from book of Henriett Seth F. 

The text book contains details of Donna Williams' s Nobody Nowhere : The extraordinary Autobiography of an Autistic Girl few lines, Birger Sellin' s Don't want to Be Inside Me Anymore: Messages from Autistic Mind few lines and a few lines by Mark Haddon' s: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. 

That played in Esztergom, Budapest, Pécs, Tatabánya, Székesfehérvár and Eger theatres and made from it TV documentary in Hungarian Television, 2.010, and Budapest, Gyöngyös theatres in 2.011. 

Henriett Seth F.' s life and arts can be compared Arthur Rimbaud' s life and arts after her "Little Wassily Kandinsky" 's early childhood savant syndrome years.

Henriett universal effect of all that was what we now call autism and savant syndrome, see Darold Treffert, University of Wisconsin Medical School, Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, U.S.A.: Henriett Seth F. - Rain Girl and National Talents Support Council, Particular Educational Talents Support Council, Budapest, Hungary: Henriett Seth F. - The Rain Girl Artist.

Works in Hungarian

Henriett Seth F.' s unpublished poems from her childhood and teen years before the age 25 with title It may be...; Autumn; Well, don't speak this child; Something easy to write and sweet; There in the distance; Silently; Somewhere; A dream in a cage; Liberation from the slavery of the soul and Poem to the patron, on title 2th: Existence, infinity, and the world years between (1.989–2.005).

Winner of the XIIth and XIIIth International Literature Competition(2000–2001) International Alliance of Hungarian Writers.
Novels to the periodical New Face, (2.001)

Autizmussal önmagamba zárva ("Closed into myself with autism") by Henriett Seth F. to Hungarian Autism Research Group and Ministry for the National Cultural Heritage (2.005)
Autizmus – Egy másik világ ("Autism - Another World") by Henriett Seth F. to University of Pécs (2.006) 
Novel to the periodical Esőember ("Rain Man") (2.006) by Henriett Seth F. from her kindergarten's, primary school's and Eszterhazy College's life.


Henriett Seth F.' s paintings and galleries in House of Arts and Brody Sandor Public Library, Eger, 1.993-2.007

TV Documentaries

Henriett Seth F. on the first digitized videos of childhood autism and savant syndrome on Hungary on investigations and language development with her photos of paintings by Hungarian Autism Research Group, 2.002.

Friderikusz Sándor.: "Seth F. Henriett: Esőlány", ("The Rain Girl") - Freedom of Speech, Hungarian Television, 2.005.
Monodrama from book of Henriett Seth F.: Nemsenkilény, monológ nemmindegyembereknek.


Monodrama from book of Henriett Seth F., text book contains details of Donna Williams, Birger Sellin and Mark Haddon: Nemsenkilény, monológ nemmindegyembereknek ("Notanobodycreature") in Esztergom' s Theatre by Orlai Produkciós Iroda, 2.010.

Monodrama from book of Henriett Seth F., text book contains details of Donna Williams, Birger Sellin and Mark Haddon: Nemsenkilény, monológ nemmindegyembereknek ("Notanobodycreature") in Budapest Trafó House of Contemporary Arts by Orlai Produkciós Iroda, 2.010, 2.011.

Monodrama from book of Henriett Seth F., text book contains details of Donna Williams, Birger Sellin and Mark Haddon: Nemsenkilény, monológ nemmindegyembereknek ("Notanobodycreature") in Pécs' s Harmadik Theatre by Orlai Produkciós Iroda, 2.010.

Monodrama from book of Henriett Seth F., text book contains details of Donna Williams, Birger Sellin and Mark Haddon: Nemsenkilény, monológ nemmindegyembereknek ("Notanobodycreature") in Tatabánya' s Jászai Mari Theatre by Orlai Produkciós Iroda, 2.010.

Monodrama from book of Henriett Seth F., text book contains details of Donna Williams, Birger Sellin and Mark Haddon: Nemsenkilény, monológ nemmindegyembereknek ("Notanobodycreature") in Székesfehérvár' s Vörösmarty Theatre by Orlai Produkciós Iroda, 2.010.

Monodrama from book of Henriett Seth F., text book contains details of Donna Williams, Birger Sellin and Mark Haddon: Nemsenkilény, monológ nemmindegyembereknek ("Notanobodycreature") in Eger' s Gárdonyi Géza Theatre by Orlai Produkciós Iroda, 2.010.

Monodrama from book of Henriett Seth F., text book contains details of Donna Williams, Birger Sellin and Mark Haddon: Nemsenkilény, monológ nemmindegyembereknek ("Notanobodycreature") in Budapest' s Radnóti Színház by Orlai Produkciós Iroda, 2.011.

Monodrama from book of Henriett Seth F., text book contains details of Donna Williams, Birger Sellin and Mark Haddon: Nemsenkilény, monológ nemmindegyembereknek ("Notanobodycreature") in Gyöngyös' s Mátra Művelődési Központ by Orlai Produkciós Iroda, 2.011.

External links in English and Hungarian

Henriett Seth F.'s web site – Contains this autistic savant woman's biography, paintings/galleries/books/novels/prizes/theatres/tv documentaries of Henriett, multiple gifted autistic savant.

Article (Rain Girl) from Henriett Seth F. – Contains biography of Henriett, paintings and photos by Dr. Darold Treffert.

Documentary film from Henriett Seth F. – Contains autism and savant syndrome from Henriett, title with Esőlány ("The Rain Girl") - Freedom of Speech in Hungarian Television by Friderikusz Sandor, 2.005.

Monodrama from book of Henriett Seth F. – Contains book (Autizmussal onmagamba zarva) of Henriett Seth F., title with Nemsenkilény, monológ nemmindegyembereknek ("Notanobodycreature"), by Orlai Produkciós Iroda, RTL Klub, ATV, Port, 2.010.

Henriett Seth F.' s international influences: Arts in Difference; – Contains Arts in Difference: Henriett Seth F., Nemsenkilény, monológ nemmindegyembereknek "Notanobodycreature", 2.010.


Criticism from Henriett Seth F.'s book of Autizmussal önmagamba zárva ("Closed into myself with autism") by Alliance Safeguarding for Hungarian Autistic Children and Adults.

Criticism from Henriett Seth F.'s book of Autizmussal önmagamba zárva ("Closed into myself with autism") and Henriett Seth F. by Börcsök Enikő, title with Megoszthatatlan belső magány ("Indivisible internal solitude").

Criticism from Henriett Seth F.'s book of Autizmus - Egy másik világ ("Autism - Another World") by Magazine Solaria Science Fiction.

Dane Bottino

Dane Bottino is a self-taught artist.

He started drawing when he was two years of age. 

He is autistic and lost his beginning language about the same age. 

He instead spent every waking moment drawing to express his emotions, desires and thoughts. 

Surprisingly, even at three years of age, he could draw with correct perspective and correct spelling, etc. 

He would give grocery lists of intricate and correct images of whatever he wanted. He has always been very obsessive and compulsive about his drawing.

For example, when he was young he would draw on whatever he could get his hands on: books, newspapers and telephone books. 

He would have a picture on every page, front and back. He would stay up all night until a series of pictures was complete. 

For example, early pictures were drawn over and over until he was pleased with the image and then he would not draw that subject again. 

Sometimes this process would include thousands of drawings on the same theme.

He has gone through periods on Dr. Seuss, imaginary animals, realistic animals, cartoons, etc. 

At fifteen years old he has basic functional language, yet he still chooses to communicate through art instead of common language.

Dane is very right brained and this rules the way he sees the world. 

Lately, he has done a series on the history of art, interpreting the following: cave art, Greek, Medieval, Renaissance, Impressionism, Van Gogh, Picasso, Warhol, etc. 

Additionally, he has become interested in graphic arts and would like to create a web page to sell his art.

He has also shown a talent in music and has been found to have a perfect pitch. He can sing language and this might be an avenue for future expression. 

He can easily adjust his styles and seems to be expanding his creativity and horizons.

Dane has been on TV numerous times and has been filmed by the Discovery channel and the BBC. 

If you are interested in contacting him, you can email him. 

He is located in Southern California and exhibits on a regular basis. 

He sells his work and will have a recent piece in the UC Davis Mind Institute Gallery collection. 

He hopes to hear from you.

Video Dane Bottino
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Richard Wawro

Richard Wawro was a remarkable Scottish artist who earned widespread acclaim for his detailed drawings created with the unusual medium of wax oil crayons. 

With these he produced exceedingly detailed, dramatic images of intense depth and colour.

Richard died on February 22nd, 2.006 after a brave fight against cancer. 

Richard developed his art well beyond the constrictions of his autism and physical disability. 

The drawings of Richard Wawro have a popular appeal which is not confined to traditional artistic circles. 

His work is admired and owned by people who would not consider themselves art collectors. 

Notable owners of Richard Wawro originals are Lady Margaret Thatcher and Pope John Paul II. 

Richard was born in 1.952. 

When he was three years old his parents were told that he was moderately to severely retarded. 

He also showed considerable autistic behavior with the characteristic obsession for sameness, withdrawal, walking in circles, spinning objects endlessly, and a preoccupation with the piano striking a single key for hours at a time. 

He did not have useful language until the age of 11. 

He required surgery for cataracts on both eyes during childhood.

Richard began drawing on a chalkboard at about age 3. 

He immediately covered the tiny chalkboard with numerous images. 

At age 6 he entered a Children's Center where he was introduced to drawing with crayons where his immense talent was immediately apparent. 

When Richard was 12 years old, Professor Marian Bohusz-Szyszko of the Polish School of Art in London viewed Richard's drawings and was "thunderstruck"; he described his works as an "incredible phenomenon rendered with the precision of a mechanic and the vision of a poet."

Like other savants Richard had a phenomenal memory. 

He remembered where he drew each picture and had each of them precisely dated in his mind. 

He used no models for his drawings, but drew from images seen only once, on television or in a book at one of the bookshops he loved to visit. 

He had perfect recall but often added his own touches, interpretations or improvisation to the images. 

He seemed especially fascinated, and facile, with light its sources and its dispersion and the tones he uses to capture lights and shadows are masterful.

For Richard art was his life and his love. 

He took pride in his talent and loved to share it. 

At the completion of each picture Richard would take it to his father for approval and then received appropriate and deserved compliments, followed by a mini-celebration in which he and his father raised joined hands in a sort of present-day high-five. 

He and his father shared an unmistakeable enthusiasm and appreciation for each other. Richard's mother, who also loved and appreciated him unconditionally, died in 1.979 but in spite of their closeness, Richard's work did not stop. Richard's father died in 2.002.

Richard had his first exhibition in Edinburgh when he was 17 years old. 

Now he is known worldwide and has sold over 1000 pictures in over 100 exhibitions. 

One of his exhibitions was opened by Margaret Thatcher when she was Minister of Education. 

She owns several of his pictures as did the late Pope John Paul II. 

A very impressive and moving documentary about Richard called "With Eyes Wide Open" had its world premiere in 1.983 and has won numerous awards in many countries. 

Dr. Laurence Becker who produced that film states "it enables the viewer to experience Richard Wawro as a highly gifted artist and as a person. 

It reveals the nurturing environments that enabled Richard's spirit and talent to grow and develop. 

It is as though deep within him that 'spirit was clamoring to be free' and for himself and for each viewer or his art, his drawing sets it free. 

This remarkable artist's life and his art provide abundant evidence of the quality and persistence of the human, creative spirit."

A videotape entitled A Real Rainman, Portrait of an Autistic Savant was also produced by Dr. Becker and is now available. 

James Henry Pullen

James Henry Pullen (1.835–1.916), also known as the Genius of Earlswood Asylum, was a British autistic savant, possibly suffering from aphasia.


Pullen was born in Dalston, London in 1.835, and lived in Peckham, South London. 

Both he and his brother William were regarded as deaf (presumably he was not in fact deaf, mute and were developmentally disabled. 

By the age of 7 Pullen had learned only one word, mother, which he pronounced poorly.

As a child, he began to carve small ships out of firewood and draw pictures of them. Pullen was first confined to Essex Hall, Colchester.


At the age of 15, in 1.850, he was taken to the then new Earlswood Asylum (later called Royal Earlswood Hospital). 

Contemporary account tells that Pullen could not give any answers through speech, but could communicate through gestures. 

He could read lips and gestures but never learned to read or write beyond one syllable. 

Pullen's brother William later followed him to the asylum; a good painter, he died at the age of 35.

Earlswood Asylum tried to teach its patients a number of handicrafts so they could support themselves and the asylum. 

Pullen continued his handicrafts and became a gifted carpenter and cabinet maker. 

He would work at workshop at days and draw at night. 

Most of the drawings were of the corridors of the asylum and he framed them himself. 

If Pullen could not find a suitable tool, he would make it himself. 

In addition he would also make practical items, such as bed frames, for the needs of the asylum.

Pullen was alternatively aggressive or sullen. 

He could be reserved but also wrecked his workshop once in a fit of anger. 

He did not like to accept advice and wanted always to get his own way. 

Once he took a dislike to a certain member of the staff and built a guillotine-like contraption over his door. 

Luckily for the target, it went off too late. 

Once, when Pullen developed an obsession to marry a woman he fancied, the staff mollified him by giving him an admiral's uniform instead.


Queen Victoria accepted some of the drawings and Prince Albert received one Pullen had drawn of the Siege of Sebastapol in the Crimean War, based on newspaper accounts. 

He even attracted interest of the Prince of Wales, future king Edward VIII; Pullen referred to him as "Friend Wales." 

Prince Edward sent him pieces of ivory so he could carve them. 

Sir Edwin Henry Landseer sent engravings of his paintings to Pullen and his brother Arthur so they could copy them.

Asylum superintendent Dr. John Langdon-Down, the discoverer of Down's syndrome, gave Pullen a great deal of leeway. 

For example, he was allowed to eat his meals with the staff.

Pullen's masterpiece is a model ship, The Great Eastern, that he spent seven years building; Pullen made all the details, including 5,585 rivets, 13 lifeboats and interior furniture in miniature, himself. In its maiden voyage the ship sank for lack of buoyancy but Pullen repaired that flaw later. 

The ship was exhibited in the Crystal Palace.

Pullen also built a large mannequin in the middle of his workshop; he would sit inside it, manipulate its appendages and talk through a concealed bugle in its mouth.


After Pullen's death in 1.916, his workshop became a museum of his work until the Royal Earlswood Asylum was closed in 1.997. 

It is now an apartment complex. 

Some of Pullen's ship models, designs and art work can be seen on permanent display at the Belfry Shopping Center, High Street, Redhill.

One of the earliest, and most colorful, savants was James Henry Pullen who came to be known as the Genius of Earlswood Asylum. 

Pullen spent 66 years of his life at Earlswood, near London, from age 15 until his death in 1.916. 

During that time, because of his marvelous mechanical and drawing abilities, he became a bit of a national celebrity and his abilities are extensively documented by a number of observers of that time including Drs. Sequin, Tredgold and Sano. 

Even his majesty King Edward, when Prince of Wales, took a tremendous interest in this remarkable man and sent him tusks of ivory to encourage him in producing beautiful carvings. 

Pullen's story is outlined in considerable detail in a chapter named after him in Extraordinary People. 

Pullen was deaf and nearly mute. 

At age 5 or 6 he was impressed by the small ships that his playmates tried to maneuver on narrow puddles in Dalston, his birthplace, and he became obsessed with making such toys. 

He became skilled in carving ships and reproducing them in penciled drawings. 

Until he was age 7 he spoke only one word, "muvver." 

He later learned some monosyllabic words. He entered Earlswood at age 15 where he was described as "unable to give any intelligible answer, unless he could accompany his broken words by gestures."
At Earlswood, Pullen continued his skills as a carpenter and cabinet maker, becoming a tremendous craftsman. 

He would work constantly in his workshop from morning until night, then, later still in the evening would do drawings in dark, colored chalk. Dr Sequin describes those drawings as "most meritorious; and many of them, framed and glazed by himself, adorn the corridor and other parts of the asylum. 

One was graciously approved and accepted by the Queen, who was kindly pleased to send the artist a present. 

And Mr. Sidney had the honor of showing some of them to the Prince Consort, no common judge of art, who expressed the greatest surprise that one so gifted was still to be kept in the category of idiots, or ever had been one. 

His Royal Highness was particularly astonished, not only by his copies of first rate engravings, but by an imaginary drawing made by him of the Siege of Sebastopol, partly from the illustrated London News and partly from his own ideas." 

Because of his expert craftsmanship, Pullen became a bit of a celebrity at Earlswood. He was given two workshops, and freedom to pursue his talents. For many years those two workshops became museums of his art after his death. 

Royal Earlswood closed in 1.997. 

The museum artifacts mostly went into storage, but some are now on display in showcases in a Shopping Centre in Redhill. 

A Royal Earlswood Museum Committee does still exist, however, and all paper records are held at the Sorrey History Centre in Woking, Surrey. 

Some of the pictures of Pullen's work are posted as part of this story, including his masterpiece, "The Great Eastern."

"The Great Eastern" (see picture at right) was a model ship for which Pullen fashioned every screw, pulley, anchor and paddle from drawings he made beforehand. 

The planks were attached to the ribs by wooden pins that numbered over one million. The model was 10 feet long, and contained 5,585 rivets and had 13 lifeboats hoisted on complete davits. 

State cabins were complete with chairs, bunks, tables and decorations. 

The ship was constructed so that the entire deck could be raised to view the intricate detail below. 

Pullen spent seven years completing this complicated ship, and it attracted worldwide attention when exhibited at the prestigious Fisheries Exhibition in 1.883 in England, where it won the first prize medal.

Dr. Sequin described Pullen, at age 19, as alternately wild and sullen. 

He never learned to read or write. 

The older Pullen was usually quiet and reserved, but there was another side to him as well. 

He was intolerant of advice, suspicious of strangers and, at times, ill tempered and violent. He once wrecked his workshop in a fit of anger, and, another time, erected a guillotine-like instrument over a door, hoping a staff member he particularly disliked might come through. He both impressed and frightened people with a giant mannequin in the center of his workshop, inside of which he would sit, directing movements of its arms and legs and talking through a concealed bugle fitted to its mouth. 

A picture of the mannequin is shown here as well. 

Pullen was remarkably sensitive to vibrations coming through the ground and devised an alarm system in his workshop, based on that sensitivity, that made him aware of any approaching visitor.

Dr. Tredgold sums up Pullen this way: "His powers of observation, comparison, attention, memory, will and pertinacity are extraordinary; and yet he is obviously too childish, and at the same time too emotional, unstable, and lacking in mental balance to make any headway, or even hold his own, in the outside world. 

Without someone to stage-manage him, his remarkable gifts would never suffice to supply him with the necessities of life, or even if they did, he would easily succumb to his utter want for ordinary prudence and foresight and his defect of common sense. 

In spite of his delicacy of manipulation, he has never learned to read or write beyond the simplest words of one syllable. 

He can understand little of what is said to him by lip reading, and more by signs, but, beyond a few words, nearly all that he says in reply is absolutely unintelligible."

The three doctors who knew Pullen best had differing ideas about Pullen's basic disability (they all agreed on his extraordinary abilities). 

Dr. Tredgold concluded that Pullen had a 'secondary mental deficiency' due to sensory deprivation (deafness). Dr. Sequin summed it up this way: "In short, he has seemingly just missed, by defect of some faculties, and the want of equilibrium in those he possesses, being a distinguished genius." 

Dr. Sano concluded that if Pullen has simply been affected by sensory depriviation like Helen Keller, "deprived of sight and hearing, and yet able to acquire every kind of knowledge that enobles human understanding", Pullen should have been able to advance much further, given the attention and notoriety he had experienced because of his tremendous skill as a craftsman. 

Instead, Dr. Sano points out, that "Pullen with both of his eyes wide open to the bright world of London, and his skilled ten fingers under complete sense control… could not absorb, digest or exteriorise the most ordinary sentence of politeness. 

To say, 'I am very much obliged to you' was strange to him in grammatical arrangement as well as in social meaning."

Dr. Sano carried his analysis of the case of Pullen one step further. For him, the case did not end with Pullen's death. 

Writing in the Journal of Medical Science, in 1.918 Sano gives not only his view of Pullen's life, but also provides an exhaustive description of a postmortem examination of Pullen's brain. 

The brain showed only arteriosclerosis, not unusual at Pullen's age. 

There was a slightly larger than normal corpus callosum (the mass of fibers connecting the cerebral hemispheres) and a good preservation of the occipital lobes (the visual center of the brain). 

From this particular prominent connection between the occipital lobes and the cerebral hemispheres, Sano concludes that those pathways were "bound to have special capacity in the visual sphere of mental existence".

A sketch of the inner workings of Pullen's mannequin

(How interesting in view of imaging and other findings elaborated elsewhere on this site about the 'visual thinking' nature of many present-day savants). 

There was some lack of cerebral development which, Dr. Sano felt, was consistent with the mental retardation present. 

But while Dr. Sano did find such evidence to explain the retardation, he went on to say that any further explanation of Pullen's "character" was "not to be found in his convolutions". 

Dr. Sano sums up his puzzlement and awe of Pullen by quoting Carlyle's Hero Worship to capture the magic and mystery of the savant : "Science had done much for us, but it is a poor science that would hide from us the deep sacred infinitude of nescience, whither we can never penetrate, on which all science swims as a mere superficial film. 

The world, after all our science and sciences, is still a miracle-wonderful, inscrutable, magique, and more, whosoever will think of it."

And so was Pullen. Like the other savants before and after him, Pullen was a paradox of ability and disability. 

He captured the interest of kings, doctors and the public. 

He was proud, even boastful, but with good reason given his prodigious ability. 

He capitalized on that ability with tremendous motivation and became the recipient of equally tremendous reinforcement. 

He was original, one of a kind, not soon to be duplicated.

Pullen, and the condition of the savant, remains a remarkable mystery, one we are still unraveling more than a century later.