General George Marshall

At a news conference, General George Marshall, U.S. Army Chief of Staff and Secretary of State during World War II (1930s and 1940s) would listen to questions coming from reporters and not lose track of his prepared statement. After he finished his statement he would look at each reporter and answer the question they had asked prior, one by one, without them repeating the question. Marshall was able to associate key words, or premise of each question with the names and faces of the reporters who asked them.

David M. Roth (not the musician David Lee Roth) was the world’s foremost memory expert for four decades. His memory was still intact when he passed away at the age of 97, in 1971. He was able to recite Thomas Gray’s 128-line “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard;” repeat the telephone numbers of any of the 600 members in his chapter of the Rotary Club; and could cite the days of the week for any date from 1752 to 3000. What was the secret to his incredible memory? According to Roth, “You have to visualize in your mind what it is you are trying to remember.”

Famous chess player Harry Pillsbury (1872-1906) played 32 games simultaneously with as many opponents, blindfolded – without sight of boards or pieces, at the Franklin Chess Club in Philadelphia in 1900. In 1902 he played 21 games while blindfolded (winning 13, drawing 2, losing 1). He was as well known for his memory has his chess expertise. Once two professors to memorize up to 30 words (not easy words – antiphlogistine, takadiastase, streptococcus, etc.) and he did it forward and backward!

In ancient Rome, Lucius Scipio, a Roman senator, was able to remember that names and faces of all the people living in the city.

Three-time recipient of the Basketball Player of the Year Award, Jerry Lucas, has made a name for himself outside of the basketball court as a memory expert. Lucas has authored more than sixty books in the field of memory training and learning systems. Doctor Memory™ is now widely known and respected as an expert in developing the many methods that encompass his concept known as “Learning That Lasts™.”

What do all these people have in common? They realized the value of having a good memory, and found a way to take simple memory techniques, that have worked for ages, and help them to develop great memories. Without a system it would be impossible to remember these lists, moves or questions. Everyone has a system. Some people could even go so far as to call it a “cheat sheet.” Whatever works for them, and obviously something did, can work for you too.

One of the methods they use is visualization and association, or as Lucas calls it, the “Link and the Substitute Word.”  I like to use the “Method of Loci,” as one of my methods. There are several different ones that can work for you. The loci method came from an ancient poet named Simonides, who attended a large banquet and was lucky enough to leave the hall minutes before the roof collapsed and everyone inside was killed. Simonides was able to aid rescuers in identifying the bodies by recalling who sat at what table – associating their seating chart with their names and faces.

Anyone can learn to improve memory, and even become a memory champion, as I was able to do. It takes training and concentration, but it is achievable.





The Memory Book, by Harry Lorayne & Jerry Lucas

Wikipedia – George Marshall:

David M. Roth:

L.A. Times –

The Rotarian – The Amazing Experience of Victor Jones: