(Investigator 212, 2023 September)

Quiz shows on television have always been popular, none more so than in Australia in the early '50s when a contestant, Barry Jones, later to become a member of parliament and Science Minister, astounded audiences with his photographic memory.

Long before the advent of TV however, W.J.M. Bottle, otherwise known as Datas, the Memory Man, was born on July 20, 1875. Poorly educated and almost illiterate, he developed the habit of "committing things to memory for the occupation of being able to repeat them afterwards at leisure." He left school at the age of eleven and worked as a stoker at the Crystal Palace Gas Works in London. One day in 1901 he overheard two men discussing a famous legal case of the day and interjected correcting some misinformation in the conversation. One of the men, surprised at Bottle's knowledge of little known facts introduced him to the manager of the Standard Music Hall, Victoria, London, who, armed with an almanac, tested Bottle's general knowledge. He was so impressed, he put Bottle on the stage to answer questions from the audience — the "Memory Man" was an immediate success. Not only would he answer any and every question without hesitation and correctly, he would also augment his answers with related material.
Puzzled by the methods Datas used, four physicians in America examined him in 1904 and pronounced his 69-ounce brain as the heaviest they had ever examined. Bottle apparently used no mnemonic system to commit his material to memory, but authored a system of memory training and an autobiography in which he speaks of creating "mind pictures" which could be recalled later.
Comments: See under Thea Alba.

From: Edwards, H. 1994 Magic Minds Miraculous Moments, Harry Edwards Publications