List of people claimed to possess an eidetic memory

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A number of people claim to have eidetic memory, but science has never found a single verifiable case of photographic memory.[1][2] Eidetic imagery is virtually nonexistent in adults.[3] Most people showing amazing memory abilities use mnemonic strategies, mostly the method of loci. This includes all winners of the annual World Memory Championships and most of the known scientific cases of excellent memories, like S. V. Shereshevskii. Regardless, the following list contains people who have claimed photographic memory.[4]

People claimed to possess an eidetic memory[edit]

  • Sukarno, the father of Indonesian independence and the first president of the Republic of Indonesia, is said to have had a photographic memory, which helped him in his language learning.[5]
  • Stephen Wiltshire is a prodigious savant,[6] capable of drawing the entire skyline of a city after a helicopter ride.[7]
  • Kim Peek, prodigious savant and inspiration for the character Raymond Babbit, played by Dustin Hoffman, in the film Rain Man.[8]
  • Said Nursî, an Ottoman Islamic scholar who was able to recite many books from memory. For instance "... So then he [Molla Fethullah] decided to test his memory and handed him a copy of the work by Al-Hariri of Basra (1054-1122) — also famous for his intelligence and power of memory — called Maqamat al-Hariri. Said read one page once, memorized it, then repeated it by heart. Molla Fethullah expressed his amazement."[9]
  • John von Neumann, was able to memorize a column of the phone book at a single glance.[10] Herman Goldstine wrote about him: "One of his remarkable abilities was his power of absolute recall. As far as I could tell, von Neumann was able on once reading a book or article to quote it back verbatim; moreover, he could do it years later without hesitation."[11]
  • Ferdinand Marcos, the former Filipino dictator. He claimed to have memorized complicated texts in one glance. He could recite the Philippine 1935 constitution forward and backward. He also passed the bar examination in 1939 with an almost perfect score at 98.01%. Several people contested his score and a retake was taken, albeit an oral bar examination witnessed by several people. His second bar examination resulted in a perfect score.[12]
  • Charles Nalder Baeyertz, a publisher and music critic in New Zealand. His capacity to memorize a page at a glance enabled him to display an apparently inexhaustible supply of knowledge and to acquire several languages. He claimed to have learnt Maori by memorizing a dictionary. His favourite party trick was to read a newspaper column then recite it backwards.[13]
  • Arturo Toscanini, Italian conductor. He memorized about 100 operas and over 100 symphonies.[14] "One of his second grade school teachers, Signora Vernoni, noticed that Toscanini could memorize poems after a single reading and could pick out on the piano the songs and arias he had heard people singing."[15]
  • Abubakar Shekau, the leader of the Nigerian Islamist militant group Boko Haram, has been described as possessing a photographic memory.[16]
  • Robert Evans can identify new objects that appear in starfields of 1500 galaxies.

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ Wilding, J.M., & Valentine, E.R.: Superior Memory. Hove, England: Psychology Press (1997).
  5. ^ Ludwig M., Arnold (2004). King of the Mountain: The Nature of Political Leadership. University Press of Kentucky. p. 150.
  6. ^ Treffert, Darold (1989). Extraordinary People: understanding "idiot savants". New York: Harper & Row. ISBN 0-06-015945-6. 
  7. ^ David Martin. Savants: Charting "islands of genius", CNN broadcast September 14, 2006
  8. ^ Kim Peek: savant who was the inspiration for the film Rain Man
  9. ^ Şükran Vahide. (2005). Islam in Modern Turkey. State University of New York Press, ISBN 0-7914-6515-2
  10. ^ Halmos, Paul (April 1973). "The Legend of von Neumann". American Mathematical Monthly 80 (4): 382–394. doi:10.2307/2319080. 
  11. ^ The Computer from Pascal to von Neumann, by Herman Goldstine, 1972, Princeton Univ. Press, ISBN 0-691-08104-2, p. 167
  12. ^ Seagrave, Sterling (1988). The Marcos Dynasty. Harpercollins. ISBN 0-06-015815-8. 
  13. ^ Woods, Joanna (2008). Facing The Music Charles Baeyertz and The Triad. Otago University Press. ISBN 978-1-877372-55-1. ,p.22-23
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^ "Nigeria's Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau in profile". BBC News. 9 May 2014.