Apparently 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. Possessors of these preternaturally powerful memories are called eidetics. Some call them freaks. It seems that nature’s hand twitched at the moment she minted each of them.
It appears eidetics come in several grades and Cyrus and Gambetta, though seemingly impressive, are considered bottom feeders. Their memories are just freezers, that kept memories fresh until needed. Nothing happened to what was stored. Consider for example Paul Morphy of New Orleans who once played eight games of chess simultaneously against eight expert opponents, winning six with one loss and a draw; all the more impressive sine Morphy was blindfolded.
J.H. Blackburne of London once played twelve such games. He had not only to visualize the positions of 384 chessmen but to revise his mental images after every move. More than that, he had at the same time to plan twelve separate campaigns. Passive memory was not enough here; it had to be supplemented by continuous and intense cogitation.
Some other feats are so difficult as to seem incredible. Or impossible. Like those who can draw out answers to long drawn out mathematical problems such as Oscar Verhaege running off thirty-five digit responses in under a minute. True, Mozart was proficiently tinkling the ivories at four and John Stuart Mill was prattling in Greek to his father’s satisfaction by three, but these are more in the realm of the prodigy than the other-worldly: the instantaneous estimate of Jedediahs Buxton and George Parker Bidder were cases of brain fever personified.
Jacques Inaudi could tell the day of the week on which a given day fell. This was one of the most mysterious of nature’s freakish gifts. How is it possible for someone to tell you instantly that July 2, 1610 was a Tuesday? Yet, there are persons who can do it.
Two retarded identical twins, George and Charles, became known as the “Human Calendars” during the 1960′s and received much attention from the press and scientific world. George and Charles were inmates of Letchworth Village in New York and had measured IQ’s in the 60 range. In a demonstration of their abilities, a psychiatrist asked them to add 2 + 2. Several minutes passed and the brothers could not come up with the answer. The psychiatrist then asked the twins, “Perhaps you can tell us what months in the year 2002 will start on Friday?” The brothers brightened up and instantly replied in unison, “March, February and November”! The brothers can perform this feat for any date that is asked. George, who is better at it than Charles, can calculate dates up to at least the year 7,000 A.D….
…Like almost all idiot savants, George and Charles have no ability for abstraction. They cannot subtract simple figures but if they are told they are subtracting apples, then they can do at least minor calculations. It is unclear what function determines what they can and can’t do. The twins can tell you that George Washington would be 249 years old if he were alive today, yet they can’t solve the abstract equation 2 + 2. It seems the logical part of their minds is singularly focused on only one area – calendar dates. Read More:http://www.searchwithin.org/download/idiot_savants.pdf
On Rain Man: The toothpick scene (246 toothpicks seen instantly as they fall to the floor) is the same ability the savant twins, George and Charles, showed with matches. The lightning calculating Raymond Babbitt shows in multiplication or extraction of square roots is common among mathematical savants. Memorization of a phone book through the G’s is not impossible; witness the “exaltation of memory” among the mnemonist savants.
In short, mind-boggling as some of the scenes in Rain Man are, they draw from the kinds of skills that do exist in real-life Rain Men and Rain Women. The story line may be fictional but a factual basis for what may appear to be preposterous skills does exist. To the film’s credit, it did not stray far from the truth for either autism or Savant Syndrome. It did not have to. Autism is that intriguing and Savant Syndrome is that remarkable. There is no need to embellish or alter either one, for together they provide a fascinating story. Read More:http://www.wisconsinmedicalsociety.org/savant_syndrome/savant_articles/rain_man
Are certain forms of creativity enhanced by brain damage? Do the same genetic traits that produce disorders like savant syndrome, autism, and Tourette’s contribute to genius? Hans Asperger, who in the early 1940s pioneered the study of autism, believed the answer was yes. “For success in science and art,” he wrote, “a dash of autism is essential.” The biographies of many innovative thinkers bear him out. – S.S.
Jazz composer and improviser
Possible diagnosis: Tourette’s syndrome
The high priest of bebop spoke in a medley of grunts and cosmic aphorisms and danced around his piano – and his ticcish syncopations blasted jazz out of the swing era.
Carl Friedrich Gauss
Mathematician and astronomer
Possible diagnosis: prodigious savant
Gauss taught himself to read at age 3; by 10 he was considered a math prodigy. His discoveries in number theory threw open the gates of post-Euclidian geometry.
Possible diagnosis: Asperger’s syndrome
Gould was a legendary control freak in the studio. But when he sat down at the piano, he channeled Bach. Like many savants, he had absolute pitch and a steel-trap memory.
Writer and lexicographer
Possible diagnosis: Tourette’s syndrome
Johnson, the author of the first English dictionary, was prone to ritualistic movements punctuated by outbursts of barnyard noises and fragments of the Lord’s Prayer. Read More:http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/11.12/genius_pr.html