The Quick 10: 10 People with Photographic Memories

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It's hard to say whether a photographic memory actually exists or not. So far, only one really conclusive test has ever been done to prove that there are certain individuals who can look at massive quantities of information and remember it verbatim even years later. But there are plenty of people who have claimed to possess eidetic memory (that's the official name). Here are 10 of them.

1. Tesla. According to Tesla himself, photographic memory was just one of his brain quirks. He said he had no problem memorizing entire books, but also experienced random, blinding flashes of light that were sometimes accompanied by hallucinations as well. Tesla had detailed flashbacks to earlier parts of his life and could visualize his inventions in astonishing, complicated detail before he even started tinkering with making them come to life.

2. Teddy Roosevelt could recite entire newspaper pages "“ not just articles "“ as if they were sitting in front of him. He was also a speed reader and is reported to have read two or three books a day.

3. Kim Peek. Peek was the real-life Rainman "“ he was the person Dustin Hoffman's character was based on in the 1988 movie. Before his death just last year, Peek was said to have memorized every word of every book he had ever read, estimated at around 9,000. It took him up to just 12 seconds to read one page, and each eye could read a page independently.

4. Abbie Hoffman made the claim in his 1968 book Revolution for the Hell of It that he was able to remember things in great detail after merely a glance.

5. Guillermo del Toro. The director of Pan's Labyrinth (love that movie) and the upcoming Haunted Mansion movie (love that ride) is said to have photographic memory. Maybe that's why his movies are so visually interesting.

6. Jerry Lucas. He was an amazing basketball player from the "˜50s to the "˜70s and has even been named one of the top 50 players to ever master the sport. But it's his impressive memory that's paying the bills these days. Lucas has written 60+ books on memory, has developed a memory-retention system and travels the country giving lectures on the subject. Memorized lectures, I'm sure.

7. Ferdinand Marcos. The president of the Philippines was said to have a photographic memory, which would have come in handy when cataloging Imelda's shoes.

8. Mr. T. Yes, the Mr. T. I'm guessing this is an instance of Mr. T. having a pretty great memory and simply referring to it as "photographic," but I could be wrong. The man who was born Laurence Tureaud says that he didn't need to study in school because of his "photographic memory." "Most of the time I stared out the windows, just daydreaming."

9. Rachmaninov. The composer may have had a type of photographic memory that helped him memorize sheet music with astonishing speed. This was aided by his extraordinary ear for music. Russian composer Alexander Siloti would give him complicated and demanding works to learn and Rachmaninov (also spelled Rachmaninoff) would have it completely memorized to perfection a day or two later.

10. Elizabeth. Not the queen "“ just "Elizabeth." She's the one person who has ever really been proven to possess true eidetic memory. She passed tests that convinced even skeptics, including remembering poetry written in a foreign language she did not know and remembering random dot patterns to an amazing exactness. In fact, she was even able to remember two separate dot patterns, then fuse them together in her mind to reveal a stereographic image "“ that's a "Magic Eye" image to most of us, where you sort of look past the dots to reveal a hidden picture.

Do you know anyone with a photographic memory, or even just an outstanding memory? I have the opposite of photographic memory"¦ mine's terrible.

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August 19, 2010 - 2:17pm
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