Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 45, Issue 7, pp 2274–2276 | Cite as

Did Kanner Actually Describe the First Account of Autism? The Mystery of 1938

  • Sam Fellowes
Letter to the Editor


Kanner opens his pioneering 1943 paper on autism by making a mysterious mention of the year 1938. Recent letters to the editor of this journal have disagreed over a particular interpretation—does 1938 refer to an early paper by Asperger, effectively meaning Kanner plagiarised Asperger? I argue 1938 refers to a paper by Louise Despert. This was not plagiarism but a case of building on Despert’s ideas. Additionally, I suggest his motives for not mentioning her by name were not dishonourable.


Kanner Asperger Despert First descriptions 



I would like to thank Rachel Cooper and Alan Collins who read and offered advice on earlier versions of this article. My research is funded by a scholarship from the Economic and Social Research Council.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Politics, Philosophy and Religion, County SouthLancaster UniversityLancaster, LancashireUK

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