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