Culture and Society

Marvelous Memory Men

Much of our memory is reliant on the association we create with the perceived information and the underlying emotion. The depth of information registered being proportional to the level of attention committed. While some experts quote that the information once taken is imprinted in our memory banks permanently, the recollection of which is where most people face difficulty in. Relevance and repetition immensely assists memory recall. Another factor being the weird effect- the more outlandish the object under the mind’s observation, the easier it is to remember.

The subject of memory is a distinguishing one, for it is memory that acts as the mind’s platter. While most consider the priceless resource of a sharp memory to be a gift of a chosen few, scientific studies suggest that a sharp memory is an inherent capacity of the human brain. Some have been quite successful in realizing the potential. History has observed some of these notable figures, the magicians at the art of remembrance. Here listing the names of the memory savants the world has known, mainly known for their extensive use of their memory in the most unconventional ways.


Simonides ( 556 BC-468 BC)

 The Greek poet, Simonides of Ceos, born in the 6th century is widely acknowledged as the founder of the art of memory. Much of the traditional accounts depicts him as one of the wisest of men, as a greedy miser, as an inventor of a system of pnemonics and some letters of greek alphabet(ω, η, ξ, ψ ). His remarkable ability to present the basic of human situation with much appealing simplicity garnered him fame as a poet.




Metrodorus of scepsis (145 BC – 70 BC)

Hailing from the town of Scepsis in ancient Mysia, was thought to have been the key figure in the development of the art of memory, a loosely associated group of mnemonic principle and techniques which are used to organize memory impressions, improve recal and assist in the combination and invention of ideas. Unfortunately much of his written work is lost.

One of the Metrodorus favorite trick was to memorize conversations and repeat them back to people, verbatim.

Instead of using a journey, Metrodoms placed images in the zodiac. He divided up the twelve signs (Aries, Taurus, etc.) into thirty-six decans, each one represented by thirty-six associated images. In turn, he used every degree (all 360 of them) as a stage providing him with one long and ordered journey.



Peter of Ravenna ( 1448-1504)

He published a book featuring memorization techniques in 1491, which in today’s terms was an international bestseller. The Phoenixwas translated into many languages, went through numerous editions and was considered a bible for anyone who wanted to improve their memory. His memory feats include memorizing 20,000 legal points, 200 speeches of Cicero and the entire Canon law.



  Giulo Camillo ( 1480–1544)

Giulio “Delminio” Camillo was an Italian philosopher. He is best known for his theatre, described in his posthumously published work L’Idea del Theatro. At the time known as ‘divine Camillo’ was famous thorughout Italy and France, owing to the creation of his concept of ‘memory theatre’.The theatre was based on some of the classical principles of memory. It was intended to help people remember information and ideas which were translated into images and placed in ordered points around the auditorium.




 Giordano Bruno(1548 –1600)


Giordano Bruno was an italian dominician friar, philosopher, mathematician and astronomer. He was burnt at stake when the civil authorities found him guilty of heresy. He was best known as a propounder of infinity of universe. He became widely known for his memory skills and performed in front of the pope, among others, before quitting thr order. His work including ‘De umbris idearum’ went about to describe the order of the entire universe, in a much more comprehensible manner. It comprised of rotating ‘memory wheels’ and was deeply sophisitcated.



 Matteo Ricci (October 6, 1552- May 11, 1610)

He was an italian-jesuit priest who dedicated himself converting the Chinese into Catholics. Using principles he attributed to Simonides, he trained his mind to create vast memory palaces. Concepts, people and objects could be stored in these mental buildings when translated into images and placed inside.He performed endless feats of memory, hoping that the Chinese would want to discover more ahout the religion of such a gifted man. He could recite a list of 500 Chinese ideograms and repeat them in reversc order. If he was given a volume from a Chincse classic, he could repeat it after one brief reading.





 Solomon Veniaminovich Shereshevsky or S (1886–1958)

Often quoted as “the man who remembered everything”, Solomon Shereshevskii was a russian journalist and a pnemonist, discovered for his uncanny ability, by his editor when he realised S could recollect every detail of his lecture without ever taking notes. His talent was possibly owed to the neurological condition of Synesthesia, where the human sensory input could trigger a response in experiencing another. That means his sensory experiences would often overlap each other, which enabled him to feel images, taste colors and visually experience sounds. As a pnemonist, he could recall a complete list after a gap of years. He sometimes had difficulty reading where the written words would incite sensory distractions and often had trouble recognizing faces.

His behaviour and talent was extensively studied and covered by neuropsychologist Alexander Luria in his book “The mind of the mnemonist”.

He resented not having the success he desired, in spite of his ability.


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