Who needs computers with mathematical prodigies like these…
Cyrus the Great could address every soldier in his army by name. Leon Gambetta, the French statesman, could quote thousands of pages of Victor Hugo verbatim. Mathurin Veysierre of Prussia could listen to twelve different sentences in twelves different languages, all strange to him, and repeat them syllable for syllable. Possessors of these preternaturally powerful memories are called eidetics.
Eidetics may also be called freaks. Along with clairvoyants, telepaths, and people blessed with perfect pitch, they are the mental equivalents of albinos, dwarfs, and people cursed with color blindness. Nature’s hand twitched at the moment she minted each of them.
Eidetics come in several grades, and it should be noted that Cyrus, Gambetta, and Veysierre, astounding as their feats were, rank very near the bottom. Their memories were mere freezers that kept fresh a name or a page or a sound until it was needed again. Nothing happened to what was deposited in their memory drawer. It did not mature, it simply dozed.
Now, consider the case of Paul Morphy of New Orleans. Born in 1837, he once played eight games of chess simultaneously against eight expert opponents, winning six, losing one and one tie game. What is most impressive here is that Morphy played blindfolded. J.H. Blackburne of London once played twelve such games, thereby visualizing the positions of 384 chess pieces and revising his mental images after each move. At the same time he had to plan twelve separate campaigns. In these cases, passive memory was not enough; it had to be supplemented by continuous and intense cogitation.
If we think of Gambetta’s recital as equivalent to the running of a 1500 meters in three minutes, surely Morphy and Blackburne each ran one in two minutes flat.
(see link at end)…The 2nd Irish Chess Association Congress took place in September 1886 at Queen’s College, Belfast. Among the competitors was the leading English player, J. H. Blackburne. There were nine players in the tournament, and Blackburne received the bye in the round for Saturday 25th September. However, Blackburne was going to embark on something more strenuous than a mere tournament game that day – a blindfold simultaneous exhibition against 8 strong amateur players.
The Belfast News-Letter for Monday 27th September reported on the exhibition:
“The principal feature on Saturday, and one which had the effect of causing a good attendance, including a number of ladies, was Mr. J. H. Blackburne’s exhibition of blindfold chess, which was a splendid performance, and one which exemplified in a very marked degreee the great blindfold strategist’s proficiency in the game, that gentleman playing eight simultaneous games. Out of the eight three were won by Mr. Blackburne – viz. those against Messrs. Godwin, Nicholls and Peake; two were drawn, those in which he had Messrs. Mill and Hill as opponents; and one lost, that against Mr. Harvey. Time did not permit the other two games being finished – those in which Messrs. Palmer and Tennant were concerned, but they were adjudicated in Mr. Blackburne’s favour. The game with Mr. Harvey was a very stubbornly contested one, and was not concluded until an advanced hour, Mr. Harvey playing a good sound game throughout. The game with Mr. Peake did not continue long, as Mr. Peake, losing his queen at an early stage, was obliged to resign. Mr. Blackburne’s performance is all the more remarkable when the length of time he had to play without intermission is considered, play commencing punctually at five o’clock, and continuing until almost half-past eleven. A visit to the examination hall on Saturday was well repaid, as witnessing such a feat is not within the reach of the Belfast public every day.” Read More:http://www.rct26.dial.pipex.com/timetraveller/tt0210_blackburne_blindfold%20_1886.htm