Glenn Gould is one of many musicians linked to Asperger’s syndrome. However, his much-documented eccentricities may have had a different cause.

Canadian pianist Glenn Gould (1932-1982) was infamous for his odd behaviour. He wore winter clothing all year round; he hummed while he played; he shunned the concert stage and was socially reclusive. During his time, he was considered an eccentric – a charmingly mad genius. In recent years, however, it has been suggested by many that Gould suffered from Asperger’s syndrome.

Gould is one of a long line of musicians, including Mozart, whose exceptional talent has been linked to Asperger’s, a form of mild autism much publicised in the media. But, writes Sydney-based clinical psychologist Steven Laurent in the cover story of the March issue of Limelight, Gould does not display the key symptoms of Asperger’s. In fact, his foibles were far more prosaic, although no less unfortunate.

“The pills, the refusal to go out without coats and scarves, the oversensitivy to drafts, the obsessive diarising of physical symptoms, all point to a phobia of germs and disease,” writes Laurent. “As much as we’d all love to label Gould with the latest buzz-word in pop psych, and think of...