As part of our series on extraordinary people, this week we find out about Rita Howard, a woman with a very unusual talent.
What was the weather like yesterday? What were you thinking about when you woke up this morning? If someone asked you these questions, you probably wouldn’t find it too hard to answer. But how about remembering the same information for this date last year, or even ten years ago? Most of us find it easy to remember what happened on the most important days of our lives, but soon forget the little details of the other days, weeks, months and years. We often imagine that, without this regular ‘forgetting’, our brains would be too crowded with memories and thoughts. For Rita Howard, however, it’s as easy to remember a day thirty years ago as it is to tell us about yesterday.
Rita can choose any date from her 68 years and say where she was, what she was doing, and what day of the week it was. For years, she had no idea that this amazing memory was anything special. She was a hard-working student who always did well at school. Then later she became a historian, a job where she had many opportunities to use her ability to memorize all the facts she’d ever learned. Even so, it was only six years ago, when she was in a research project, that scientists actually told Rita she had hyperthymesia – an unusually good memory of her own experiences. Only around 20 people worldwide have the condition.