Tony Buzan
Credit: Wiki Commons Media

Tony Buzan – the man who created mind maps. He was born in England and has become famous as the creator of mind maps, and as a proponent of mnemonics. In fact, he made maps to be a visual representation of mnemonic “memory palaces”.

Buzan first became interested in memory when he went to University. One of his professors walked into class on the very first day and was able to recite all the names of the students who were attending class. The professor was able to recite names and take attendance from memory without any notes or paper. The professor claimed that he was able to do this because of mnemonics.

This feat impressed Buzan so much that he immediately delved into the study of the mind. He tried to go to the library and find a “how to” manual for how to work his brain. Unfortunately, he didn't find anything particularly suited to that task. He did, however, find some old books on ancient Greek memory techniques such as the “memory palace”. 

Memory Palace

The memory palace is a mnemonic technique that allows its users to “place” items and suggestions into different mental places so that by just remembering the places, you also remember the items and suggestions (if they were vivid enough).

Memory palaces and other techniques have been used all over the world for hundreds of years to help people remember and share information. Once writing became more popular, however, the need for incredibly strong memory decreased and a lot of the techniques became outdated and unused. Except for a few enthusiasts, mnemonics had almost died out until quite recently. 

Mnemonics and the Mind Map

Tony Buzan spent years training his own memory, and along the way he developed the idea to take the “rooms” of his memory palace and all the images in them, and put them on paper. This was the first mind map. And by mapping out ideas visually on paper, it was a much easier tool to use for people who didn't have the classical memory and mnemonic training that Tony Buzan had studied and practiced.

The mind map is such an easy and convenient tool that anyone can use it easily to organize and clarifytheir thoughts on paper. Mind maps have become so common place that there are a huge number of programs available for Mac, Windows, Linux, and mobile platforms. 

Modern Mnemonics

In recent years (pushed strongly by Tony Buzan and several other benefactors), mnemonics have made a come back and a have been surging in popularity. Buzan and a few others made The World Memory Championship and have been holding it every year. And each year, the competition gets stronger and stronger. The champion features such events as: 

  • One Hour Numbers – 1 hour to remember as many random numbers as possible.
  • Spoken Numbers – Listen to numbers spoken at 1 second intervals, and then repeat them back in the correct order.

  • One Hour Playing Cards – Remember cards in as many shuffled decks as you want.

  • Names and Faces – Contestants are shown pictures of random people with random names, and have 15 minutes to remember as many as possible. 

And so on.  So in the end, mind maps are a kind of “light” memory palaces that anyone can use once they get the concept. At the moment Buzan is independently wealthy and has been pouring his resources into bringing practical mnemonics to the world. At least with the Mind Map, he has had fantastic success in bringing applicable mnemonic techniques to the general public.