Changing the Asperger’s Eponym

Under the umbrella of Autism spectrum disorders, the term “Asperger’s syndrome” has been used since the mid-20th century to diagnose individuals who are considered to be “less impacted” by symptoms related to autism, such as developmental and social deficits. “Asperger’s” was coined in reference to Hans Asperger, making it an eponym—a term coined as a means of accrediting an individual for some significant contribution or purpose. Hans Asperger was a physician who has been historically noted as one of the first to describe autism as a disorder. Most of Asperger’s work focused on children that exhibited social and behavioral impairments in Vienna during the Nazi regime, a time in which he worked with children that exhibited social and behavioral impairments, or lacked gemüt. Though Hans Asperger was never formally a member of the Nazi party, it has come to light that he worked closely with those who were a part of the Nazi regime and played a role in sending “gemütless” children to concentration camps. Given the unethical practices once employed by Asperger and other historically prominent scientists, researchers at Penn State Abington have created a petition calling for the contextualization and removal of the Asperger’s eponym.