Uta Frith

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Uta Frith
Uta Frith.jpg
Frith at the Royal Society, 2012
Born Uta Aurnhammer
(1941-05-25) 25 May 1941 (age 73)
Rockenhausen, Germany
Institutions University College London (Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience)
Alma mater Universität des Saarlandes
King's College London (Institute of Psychiatry)
Thesis Pattern detection in normal and autistic children (1968)
Doctoral students Simon Baron-Cohen
Tony Attwood
Margaret J. Snowling
Francesca Happé
Notable awards Fellow of the Royal Society
Fellow of the British Academy
Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences
Spouse Chris Frith
Children 2
from the BBC programme The Life Scientific, 6 December 2011.[1]

Uta Frith, DBE, FRS, FBA, FMedSci (born 25 May 1941) is a developmental psychologist working at the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience at University College London. She has pioneered much of the current research in autism[2][3][4][5][6] and dyslexia,[7][8] and has written several books on these issues. Her book Autism: Explaining the Enigma[9][10] provides an introduction to the cognitive neuroscience of autism. Among the students she has mentored are Tony Attwood,[11] Margaret J. Snowling,[12] Simon Baron-Cohen[13] and Francesca Happé.[14]


She was born Uta Aurnhammer in Rockenhausen, Germany. She completed her undergraduate degree in experimental psychology at the Universität des Saarlandes, Saarbrücken.[15] She then trained in clinical psychology at the Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London and went on to complete her Doctor of Philosophy on autism in 1968 on pattern detection in normal and autistic children.[16][17][18][19]

She was mentored during her early career by Neil O'Connor and Beate Hermelin and describes them as pioneers in the field of autism.[20]


Frith's research[21] initiated the current representation of a theory of mind deficit in autism. Her 1985 paper Does the autistic child have a 'theory of mind?[22] proposed that people with autism have specific difficulties understanding other people's beliefs and desires. This study was conducted with Alan M. Leslie and Simon Baron-Cohen.

She was one of the students of Asperger's syndrome in the UK and she has worked on reading development, spelling and dyslexia.[15][19]

She has also suggested that individuals with autism have 'weak central coherence', and are better than typical individuals at processing details but worse at integrating information from many different sources.[23] Frith was one of the first neuroscientists to recognise "autism as a condition of the brain rather than the result of cold parenting."[24]

She has been supported through her career by the Medical Research Council at University College London.[25] Frith is an active collaborator at the Interacting Minds Centre[26] at Aarhus University. The goal of the centre is to provide a transdisciplinary platform upon which the many aspects of human interaction may be studied. The project is based in part on her paper, with Chris Frith, Interacting Minds - a Biological Basis.[27]

Supporting women in science[edit]

Frith has advocated for the advancement of women in science, in part by developing a support network called Science & Shopping[28] which she hopes will "encourage women to share ideas and information that are inspiring and fun".[29] She also co-founded the UCL Women network, "a grassroots networking and social organization for academic staff (postdocs and above) in STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] at UCL", in January 2013.[30]

In the media[edit]

In December 2012, Frith appeared as a guest on BBC Two's Dara Ó Briain's Science Club.[31] On 1 March 2013 she was the guest on BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs.[32] From 31 March to 4 April 2014, to coincide with World Autism Awareness Day on 2 April, and she was the guest of Sarah Walker on BBC Radio 3's Essential Classics.[33] She also featured in the documentary Living with Autism as part of the BBC's Horizon series which was transmitted on 1 April 2014.[34]

Frith has written on the visibility of women in science, by promoting an exhibition on female scientist portraits at The Royal Society in 2013.[35]


Professor Frith is a Fellow of the Royal Society, a Fellow of the British Academy, a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences, a Foreign Associate of the National Academy of Sciences, a member of the German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina, an Honorary Fellow of Newnham College, Cambridge and an Honorary Dame Commander of the British Empire, she was President of the Experimental Psychology Society, 2006–2007.[36]

Personal life[edit]

Frith is married to Chris Frith, professor emeritus at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging at University College London. Their children are computational biologist Martin Frith and the children's book editor Alex Frith.

In 2009 Frith and her husband jointly received the European Latsis Prize for their contribution to understanding the human mind and brain.[37]


  1. ^ "Uta Frith". The Life Scientific. 6 December 2011. BBC Radio 4. http://bbc.co.uk/programmes/b017w65r. Retrieved 18 January 2014. 
  2. ^ Houston, R. A.; Frith, Uta (2000). Autism in history: the case of Hugh Blair of Borgue [c. 1708-1765]. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell Publishers. ISBN 0-631-22088-7. 
  3. ^ Gilles Trehin (2006). Urville. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers. ISBN 1-84310-419-9. 
  4. ^ Elisabeth Hill; Frith, Uta (2004). Autism, mind, and brain. Oxford [Oxfordshire]: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-852924-4. 
  5. ^ Frith, Uta (1991). Autism and Asperger syndrome. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-38608-X. 
  6. ^ Frith, Uta (2008). Autism: A Very Short Introduction: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions). Oxford University Press, USA. ISBN 0-19-920756-9. 
  7. ^ Frith, Uta (1983). Cognitive Processes in Spelling. London: Academic Pr. ISBN 0-12-268662-4. 
  8. ^ Frith, Uta; Sarah-Jayne Blakemore (2005). The learning brain: lessons for education. Oxford: Blackwell. ISBN 1-4051-2401-6. 
  9. ^ Frith, Uta (2003). Autism: Explaining the Enigma. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell Pub. ISBN 0-631-22901-9. 
  10. ^ "Book Reviews: Autism: Explaining the enigma By Uta Frith". British Journal of Developmental Psychology 21 (3): 465–468. 2003. doi:10.1348/026151003322277801.  edit
  11. ^ "Tony Attwood personal website". 
  12. ^ "Margaret Snowling St John's College profile". 
  13. ^ "Simon Baron-Cohen University of Cambridge staff profile". 
  14. ^ "Francesca Happé IOP staff profile". 
  15. ^ a b "Professor Uta Frith". Ucl.ac.uk. 1941-05-25. Retrieved 2014-04-03. 
  16. ^ Frith, Uta (1968). Pattern detection in normal and autistic children (PhD thesis). Institute of Psychiatry, London. 
  17. ^ Frith, Uta (1970). "Studies in pattern detection in normal and autistic children. I. Immediate recall of auditory sequences". Journal of Abnormal Psychology 76 (3): 413–420. doi:10.1037/h0020133. PMID 5490707.  edit
  18. ^ Frith, U. (1970). "Studies in pattern detection in normal and autistic children". Journal of Experimental Child Psychology 10 (1): 120–135. doi:10.1016/0022-0965(70)90049-4. PMID 5459646.  edit
  19. ^ a b Bishop, D. V. M. (2008). "Forty years on: Uta Frith's contribution to research on autism and dyslexia, 1966–2006". The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology 61 (1): 16–26. doi:10.1080/17470210701508665. PMC 2409181. PMID 18038335.  edit
  20. ^ "Uta Frith Personal website - Looking back". 
  21. ^ List of publications from Microsoft Academic Search
  22. ^ Baron-Cohen, S.; Leslie, A. M.; Frith, U. (1985). "Does the autistic child have a "theory of mind" ?". Cognition 21 (1): 37–46. doi:10.1016/0010-0277(85)90022-8. PMID 2934210. 
  23. ^ Happé, F.; Frith, U. (2006). "The Weak Coherence Account: Detail-focused Cognitive Style in Autism Spectrum Disorders". Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders 36 (1): 5–25. doi:10.1007/s10803-005-0039-0. PMID 16450045.  edit
  24. ^ Kate Kellaway (17 February 2013). "Uta Frith: 'The brain is not a pudding; it is an engine'". London: Guardian News and Media Limited. Retrieved 5 April 2013. 
  25. ^ "Spotlight on Uta Frith". 
  26. ^ "Interacting Minds". 
  27. ^ Frith, CD; Frith, U (Nov 26, 1999). "Interacting minds--a biological basis.". Science 286 (5445): 1692–5. doi:10.1126/science.286.5445.1692. PMID 10576727. 
  28. ^ "Science and Shopping". 
  29. ^ Kylie Sturgess (28 October 2012). "#142 - On Women in Science and Wikipedia". http://tokenskeptic.org (Podcast). Token Skeptic. 
  30. ^ "UCL Women". 
  31. ^ "Professor Uta Frith on BBC2 Dara O Briain's Science Club". BBC/. 2012. Retrieved 4 Dec 2012. 
  32. ^ "Professor Uta Frith on BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs". bps.org.uk/. 2013. Retrieved 5 April 2013. 
  33. ^ "BBC Radio 3 - Essential Classics, Monday - Sarah Walker with Uta Frith". Bbc.co.uk. 1970-01-01. Retrieved 2014-04-03. 
  34. ^ "Living with Autism". BBC/. 2014. Retrieved 2 Apr 2014. 
  35. ^ Frith, Uta (1 July 2013). "Invisible women of science – now appearing at the Royal Society". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 June 2014. 
  36. ^ "Honorary awards". Retrieved 2012-10-21. 
  37. ^ "Professors Chris and Uta Frith win European Latsis Prize". 


External links[edit]