Award-winning writer and OU graduate, Daniel Tammet, praised the “vital role” played by the arts, as he received an Honorary Doctorate, recently, for services to the arts and sciences.
Mr Tammet was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome in 2004. He has exceptional ‘savant’ talents in fields including languages and numeracy. His synaesthesia means that he experiences numbers and words as colours.
His exceptional work includes essays, poems, and a novel, as well as his best-selling autobiography, ‘Born on a Blue Day’, which recounts his growing up on the autistic spectrum.
His second book, ‘Embracing the Wide Sky’, was also one of France’s best-selling books of 2009. His novels have been translated into 30 languages and these, coupled with his self-reflection and insight into the mind, have made crucial contributions to the scientific understanding of autism.
In his acceptance speech at London’s Barbican ceremony in March, Mr Tammet said: “As I stand here to receive this special distinction, I cannot help but spare a thought for the small working-class boy from Barking, whose only access to the wider world, and to the world of culture, were the books I borrowed at local libraries.
“The books I write myself, today, have been translated into many languages and travelled all around the world. What animates them especially and makes their appeal – I hope – universal, is the exploration of inner worlds and inner lives, neurodiverse and neurotypical. Each being almost indescribably rich and beautiful.
“At a time when modern society turns increasingly towards technologies described as artificial intelligence, it seems to me more important than ever to recall the vital role played by the arts in developing the gifts that make each of us uniquely human: creativity, curiosity, and empathy.”
He’s also participated in numerous scientific studies and has been the subject of several research papers. He is the subject of a documentary film titled Extraordinary People: The Boy with the Incredible Brain, first broadcast on Channel 4 in May 2005. He gained a first-class BA in Humanities from the OU in 2016.