The Man Who Remembers Forever
Last April I blogged about Piotr Wozniak, a Polish Renaissance Man of sorts, who developed an algorithm and software product to help people learn and retain knowledge at amazing levels. His software SuperMemo can help turn people into geniuses.
Well, it turns out that there are some people out there with *amazing* memories who can do incredible feats of mental gymnastics on their own (think about the amazing Rainman – Kim Peek, or Brainman – Daniel Tammet). The latest brain wiz to add to the list is Brad Williams.
For as long as he can remember, Brad Williams has been able to recall the most trifling dates and details about his life.News anchor Brad Williams is believed to have a “superior autobiographical memory.”
For example, he can tell you it was August 18, 1965, when his family stopped at Red Barn Hamburger during a road trip through Michigan. He was 8 years old at the time. And he had a burger, of course.
“It was a Wednesday,” recalled Williams, now 51. “We stayed at a motel that night in Clare, Michigan. It seemed more like a cabin.”
To Williams and his family, his ability to recall events — and especially dates — is a regular source of amusement. But according to one expert, Williams’ skill might rank his memory among the best in the world. Doctors are now studying him, and a woman with similar talents, hoping to achieve a deeper understanding of memory.
Williams, a radio anchor in La Crosse, Wisconsin, seems to enjoy having his memory tested. Name a date from the last 40 years and, after a few moments, he can typically tell you what he did that day and what was in the news.
How about November 7, 1991?
“Let’s see,” he mused, gazing into the distance for about five seconds. “That would be around when Magic Johnson announced he had HIV. Yes, a Thursday. There was a big snowstorm here the week before.”
He went on to identify correctly some 20 other events, including the birth of the first test-tube baby in 1978, the toxic-gas leak in Bhopal, India, in 1984, and Billie Jean King’s victory over Bobby Riggs in tennis’s “Battle of the Sexes” in 1973.
“I’ve always been this way,” Williams said. “Growing up, I never really had reason to think I wasn’t like everyone else.