Professor Uta Frith was born on 25th May 1941 in Germany. She completed her undergraduate degree in experimental psychology at the Universitaet des Saarlandes before training in clinical psychology at the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London. She completed her PhD on autism in 1968.
Professor Uta Frith is best known for her research on autism spectrum disorders. Her book, Autism, Explaining the Enigma (1989) has been translated into many languages. She was one of the initiators of the study of Asperger's Syndrome in the UK and her work on reading development, spelling and dyslexia has been highly influential. Frith’s work on theory of mind in autism proposes the idea that people with autism have specific difficulties understanding other people’s beliefs and desires. Much of this work was carried out with Simon Baron-Cohen who was her PhD student. 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.
Throughout her career she has been developing a neuro-cognitive approach to developmental disorders. In particular, she has investigated specific cognitive processes and their failure in autism and dyslexia. Her aim is to discover the underlying cognitive causes of these disorders and to link them to behavioural symptoms as well as to brain systems. She aims to make this research relevant to the education of people with development disorders and to contribute to a better quality of their everyday life.
Professor Frith is a Fellow of the Royal Society, the British Academy and the Academy of Medical Sciences. She is Emeritus Professor of Cognitive Development at University College London and Research Foundation Professor at the Faculties of Humanities and Health Sciences, University of Aarhus, Denmark.