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Solomon-Veniaminovich Shereshevsky (known as "S") was a Russian newspaper reporter who was studied by the Russian psycologist A R Luria from 1920 to 1950. "S" wanted to be a violinist, became a reporter and eventually took up a career as a professional mnemonist.
"S" suffered from a condition known as Synaesthesia where the boundaries of the senses are blurred so that stimulation of one sense prompts a reaction in another. For example when told to remember a word "S" would not only hear the word, he would also experience a unique taste, see a unique colour and perhaps feel a sensation on his skin. All of these sensations of course providing triggers by which to recall the word.
For many years "S" thought that everyone had his ability to recall just about everything that he had ever experienced. His uniqueness only came to light when his newspaper editor noted that "S" never wrote down the details of the assignments given to him as his colleagues furiously wrote down the information.
Blessed with a fabulous imagination, "S" literally experienced daily life through every one of his senses (remember the "S" of SMASHIN SCOPE in the May article is Synaesthesia/Sensuality) thus making it totally memorable to him. When he was memorising, he was able to experience the information presented to him.
For example, when presented with a tone at a particular frequency and sound level, he would describe it as:
A brown strip against a dark background that had red tongue-like edges. The sense of taste is like that of sweet and sour borscht.
This month's mnemonic is an example of the imagery that "S" used to remember a complex mathematical formula.
When tested by Luria, "S" could not only remember absolutely anything presented to him, but when tested as long as fifteen to twenty years later, he was still able to recall the information perfectly. In fact "S" was even able to remember the exact circumstances in which he was presented with the information.
Although his achievements sound quite fantastic, "S" was only using abilities that are common to us all.
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4th March 1998: