CBC Digital Archives

Medical clues that Glenn Gould may have had autism

He adored Arrowroot cookies, Barbra Streisand and animals. He abhorred sunlight, the stage and airplanes. Eccentric, genius, solitary, head-strong, hypochondriac, virtuoso… all describe Glenn Herbert Gould, one of the greatest pianists of the 20th century. Gould was born on Sept. 25, 1932 in Toronto. His sudden death in 1982 at age 50 stunned the world, but his music and his legacy continue to inspire, delight and fascinate. We would like to thank the Glenn Gould Foundation for its assistance in this archival project.

The constant humming, the feverish conducting and fanatical fear of germs are eccentricities that define Glenn Gould as much as his Goldberg Variations. Years after the musician's death, Gould's unusual behavior continues to be a source of intrigue.

Timothy Maloney, a musical historian studying Gould's manner and habit, concludes that he may have suffered from Asperger Syndrome, a form of autism.

According to Maloney, people with AS demonstrate exceptional skill or talent in a specific area. But because of their high degree of functionality and their naiveté, they are often viewed as eccentric or odd. They often have obsessive routines and may be preoccupied with a particular subject of interest.
This CBC news report shows reaction to Maloney's theory from Gould's friends, fans and critics.
• Asperger Syndrome or Asperger's Disorder is a neurobiological disorder named for a Viennese physician, Hans Asperger.

• Glenn Gould wrote obsessively about his own physical diagnosis such as the number of hours he slept, his blood pressure and what he ate. He was a hypochondriac who would pop pills at the onset of the slightest malady.
Medium: Television
Program: The National
Broadcast Date: Feb. 1, 2000
Guest(s): Timothy Maloney, Helen Mesaros, Ray Roberts
Host: Peter Mansbridge
Reporter: Adrienne Arsenault
Duration: 2:45

Last updated: April 27, 2012

Page consulted on March 28, 2014

All Clips from this Topic

Related Content

1982: Pianist Glenn Gould dies

Opera singer Maureen Forrester recalls performing with the great musician.

Glenn Gould: Variations on an Artist

He adored Arrowroot cookies, Barbra Streisand and animals. He abhorred sunlight, the stage and...

Leonard Cohen: Canada's Melancholy Bard

Poet, musician, novelist, ladies' man, monk, actor... Leonard Norman Cohen, one of Canada's mo...

1962: Bernstein and Gould don't see eye to ey...

In 1962 Gould's controversial performance with Leonard Bernstein at Carnegie Hall in New York ...

Oscar Peterson: A Jazz Giant

Oscar Peterson was a giant in every sense of the word. Standing well over six feet tall, he'd ...

Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducts with charisma

The talented, 'boyish' French-Canadian orchestra conductor is rising to the top of his field i...