Botany Pond

From the editor

I just see it

Carrie Golus, AB’91, AM’93

My memory has ruled my life. ... I want to know why I remember everything. I think about the past all the time. ... It’s like a running movie that never stops. It’s like a split screen. I’ll be talking to someone and seeing something else. ... I don’t think I would never want to have this but it’s a burden.—“AJ,” Neurocase, 2006

In 2000 a woman e-mailed James McGaugh, professor of neurology at the University of California, Irvine, asking for help. She claimed she could remember every day of her life since she was 11. Her memories, she wrote, are “non-stop, uncontrollable and totally exhausting.”

Initially skeptical, McGaugh ended up studying her for five years. When he published his findings in Neurocase in 2006, he posited the existence of a type of memory unknown to science, which he called hyperthymesia. “AJ,” later identified as school administrator Jill Price, published a memoir three years later, The Woman Who Can’t Forget.

Marilu Henner, X’74, has that type of memory too. But for her, it’s not a condition or a burden. It’s a source of pleasure, of life lessons, of keeping the people she loves near her always.

Would I choose to have that kind of memory if I could? Or would I choose to have the kind of memory that Henner’s husband Michael Brown, AB’74, has—and Benjamin Recchie, AB’03, author of “Non-trivial Pursuit” has: the ability to recall vast amounts of impersonal, incidental trivia?

I’m not sure.



Botany Pond, then and now. (Photography by Nathan Keay; inset photo courtesy Special Collections Research Center.)