The Definitive Encyclopedia of Famous Memories

I am very new to these forums and very curious in reading about/discussing people that have (or allegedly have) great memories/mental abilities. So for this topic, let’s do a layout like this (I’ll demonstrate with a famous name):

-Daniel Tammet: Supposed autistic savant with demonstrated skills in calculation, language learning, number memorization, and synesthesia. However these alleged talents have been somewhat conclusively proven to be learned skills by memory expert Joshua Foer in his book Moonwalking with Einstein.
This can be read about here:

I did Tammet first so we don’t waste time on him later, and because he is by far the most famous person for his memory, yet few know he is a fraud.

Anyways, please show how great your memory is by naming as many people with these real or alleged mental abilities! Please keep them concise and provide many links for further reading/sources! Include little-known facts too that might give us a picture of the person beyond what a simple wikipedia page would give!

I’m so excited to read what you all have, and hopefully some relatively little-known (as well as well-known) people get a mention! Hopefully this will be a resource for new people to the forums! Try to keep ‘clutter’ to a minimum!

Once again try to organize the info that you share as well as possible to make for easy reading! would format my entry better if I weren’t on mobile. Thanks!

Ramón Campayo, from Spain.

1 Like

Daniel Tammet is probably a fraud but the talents themselves can actually be real. I have the same calculation abilities as him but a totally different experience. He sees shapes and textures, I feel numbers and see them clearly in my mind when I do a calculation.

Other people with great mental ability:

Stephen Wiltshire: autistic savant.
He can draw whole cities back from memory after viewing them in a 15-20 minute helicopter ride. His talent was discovered when he was young and it grew with him. He is the most famous artistic savant in the world and the prize of his pieces range from a couple of thousands for small drawings to hundreds of thousands of pounds for his large cityscape drawings. I am planning on buying one of his smaller works one day.


Tammet’s story brings to my mind Luria’s S, who also claimed to have an extreme form of synesthesia that he used as a memorization tool. S’s abilities don’t seem to have been studied by anyone else, and there were no World Memory Championships when he was alive.

Stephen Wiltshire actually is an autistic savant and isn’t just pretending to be one like Tammet is.

Johnny, you probably remember the part in Brainman where Tammet gets to meet actual savant Kim Peek (who was not autistic - he was missing part of his brain).

I very vaguely recall a TV special from a decade ago featuring 3 child prodigies, Peek, and Zoomy (who would go on to become the 2009 World Memory Champion). At the time, as someone aware of Tammet’s claim to fame of being an autistic savant (which had not yet been publicly called out), I remember watching the special expecting it to feature him as well. It was probably the first time I actually heard of memory techniques, but I didn’t really gain much of an interest in them at all until reading Foer’s book in 2012.

There’s also the rare subset of people with highly superior autobiographical memory (HSAM). I can’t remember any of these people’s names, though.

1 Like

I also read Foer’s book, but if Tammet is actually a fraud what I want to know is how he actually learns it. Learning one of the most hardest languages in the world over a weekend is just mind blowing. Any ideas what or how he actually practiced. I was surprised Foer wrote that he would lose if he actually participates in a memory

1 Like

1 week to learn Icelandic, given it is a germanic language, it is much easier than having to learn chinese over a week. It also seems entirely doable, to his expertise it was likely something along the lines of acquiring a ‘conversational vocabulary’ and common phrases within a week.

It’s not really mind blowing but entirely doable, memory champions can learn the ‘required’ amount of words in a day alone with relative ease hence Foer is right.

For example it seems impressive to have a digit span of around 20 numbers but when the awareness that it is with memory techniques sets in, it may just as well be 500 numbers.


I think Tammet has some real gifts, even if he uses mnemonics as well.

Tammet doesn’t even have a digit span of 20. When he was tested, his digit span was 11 or 13, I don’t recall exactly but not higher than 13.

1 Like

That’s very impressive. I’m currently learning (= relearning) French.

Can you tell me what methods they use. A couple of links might be all that’s needed.


First a link to the current records with words:

Simon being second for words has an interview here where he gives a comment on words :

Since his comment doesn’t directly list his method but gives background he isn’t really doing anything different for words. “For example remembering a bird leads me right back to the word Albatross” not sure if its because I am German but I get this exact image association to the word albatross too. It does inform you that he is using an image to recall the word something that makes him think of the word the same way we would do it if we use a memory palace.

I personally think if someone makes a very time consuming syllable system they would be able to perhaps double on the world record, however 300 words in 15 minutes is still impressive, if the memory champions went on with a rate of 200 words every 15 minutes there isn’t a doubt that they could continue this for 1000 words relatively easily.

To give a random answer I found on quora from record holder #3 :

Seems authentic and also that the champions are using the same methods.

1 Like

Tammet would lose precisely because he doesn’t actively practice memory techniques anymore, and I sincerely doubt he’d be interesting in competing against people who know he’s not the autistic savant that he claims he is.

I would love to see how long it takes him to learn Chinese without using memory techniques. Icelandic is a difficult language, but considering his native language is English and he already knew Finnish (I think), another Germanic language to conversational level couldn’t have been too difficult for him to learn.

I think he has convinced himself he IS a savant, and so considers it a personal attack when people tell him he isn’t one. But that’s besides the point here.

1 Like

Suddenly, Dominic statement about anyone being able to do it comes to mind
Its been a while since I read the book and that was my best chapter. Though not sure what he meant by the rain man in all of us, if my remember correctly

Savant is probably a bucket that someone put him in to explain his behaviour. People also use depression as a catch-all. Humans are complex and labels are easy.

So so tru