Top 10 Famous Memory Masters

10: Nikola Tesla (1856 – 1943)
A prolific physicist and engineer best known for developing the alternating current (AC) electrical system still used today.

Tesla had a "photographic memory" and rarely found it necessary to write anything down. It's said that when his laboratory burned down in 1885, he was able to rebuild many of his inventions from memory alone!1                                                                      Image Credit: Bettmann/CORBIS


9: Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt (1858 – 1919)
The 26th U.S. president and a Nobel Prize recipient for negotiating an end to the Russo-Japanese War in 1905.

Roosevelt honed his memory skills by reading two or three books a day and would memorize every detail. He was also fantastic at multitasking and could reportedly dictate notes to two different secretaries and read a book all at once.

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8: Sergei Rachmaninov (1873 – 1943)
A distinguished Russian composer, conductor and one of the greatest pianists of all time.

Rachmaninov likely had a type of photographic memory that allowed him to memorize sheet music with unbelievable speed. It's been said that Alexander Siloti, a Russian composer, would give him complex pieces to learn and Rachmaninov would have them totally memorized just days later.


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7: Kim Peek (1951 – 2009)
An American "megasavant" whose genius may have been caused by congenital brain abnormalities present at birth.

Peek was the true inspiration for Dustin Hoffman's character in the film "Rain Man." He memorized more than 9,000 books during his lifetime by reading two pages at once – one page with his left eye and one with his right!


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6: Pope John Paul II (1920 – 2005)
Served as head of the Catholic Church from 1978 – 2005 and was the first non-Italian pope in more than 400 years.

Pope John Paul II had a semi-photographic memory, especially with names and details. He also possessed a powerful ability to concentrate. These skills are probably why he was able to learn 21 languages and more than 100 different dialects in his lifetime!

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5: Ferdinand Marcos (1917 – 1989)
The controversial president of the Philippines from 1965 – 1986 was exiled to Hawaii after the People Power Revolution forced him out of power.

Marcos had a phenomenal memory and could memorize complicated texts with ease. He was apparently able to recited the 1935 Constitution of the Philippines backwards and forwards and perfectly recite lengthy speeches just hours after seeing them for the first time.

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4: Marilu Henner (1952 – Present)
An actress, producer and author best known for her role as Elaine O'Connor Nardo on the TV show "Taxi."

Henner is one of only twelve people on the planet with something called hyperthymesia, or "Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory." This condition allows her to remember the smallest of details from almost every day of her life as far back as the day of her Baptism as a tiny child!1                                                          Image Credit: Christopher Polk/NBC/Getty Images


3: Julius Caesar (100 BC – 44 BC)
A Roman general and considered one of the greatest military commanders in history for his role in the rise of the Roman Empire.

Legend has it that Caesar could recognize every soldier in his army of roughly 25,000 by sight alone.1                                                                            Image Credit: ettmann/CORBIS


2: Mary Elizabeth Boswer (1839 – ??)
A heroine of the Civil War who served as a spy for the Union during the while acting as a house servant for Confederate President Jefferson Davis.

Bowser provided the Union army with invaluable information by memorizing every word of Davis' letters and would recite them perfectly to her Northern contacts.1                                                              Image Credit: C.R. Rees of Petersburg Virginia, 1900


1: Napoleon Boneparte (1769 – 1821)
A French military genius who rose to prominence during the French Revolution and became the first emperor of France.

Napoleon possessed extraordinary memory skills. He could memorize countless numbers, people, maps, and military movements to near perfection. His talents allowed him to rapidly contrive complicated military orders and strategies while always thinking several steps ahead of his opponents.1                                                                             Image Credit: © Corbis



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