Short-Term Memory


Samuel Johnson (1709 – 1784)  once boasted about his amazing memory prowess to his friend Bennet Langton (1736 – 1801). As a demonstration, he said that he can recite an entire chapter of The Natural History of Iceland, a 1758 translation of Niels Horrebow’s work. When asked to prove his claim, he said:

Chap. LXXII. Concerning Snakes

There are no snakes to be met with throughout the whole island.

Indeed, that’s the whole chapter.

In the 1904 edition of Boswell’s Life of Johnson, editor George Birkbeck Hill wrote:

Chapter XLII is still shorter:

Concerning Owls.

There are no owls of any kind in the whole island.

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My name Edmark M. Law. I work as a freelance writer, mainly writing about science and mathematics. I am an ardent hobbyist. I like to read, solve puzzles, play chess, make origami and play basketball. In addition, I dabble in magic, particularly card magic and other sleight-of-hand type magic. I live in Hong Kong. You can find me on Twitter` and Facebook. My email is

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