Modern Science Researchers

Modern Memory Research Pioneers

One of the most well respected present day memory researchers and the author of many best selling books on the subject of memory is neuroscientist and professor at Harvard University, Daniel Schacter. In his book, "Searching for Memory - the brain, the mind, and the past," Schacter reflects on those who influenced his early career in memory research. Dr. Schacter became inspired by someone who was considered at the time to be of very little importance to memory research:

"My curiosity was sparked by tantalizing comments from some of the 20th Century's most towering intellects, such as the philosopher Bertrand Russell and physicist Erwin SchrÖdinger, concerning the great value of Richard Semon's work."

Professor Schacter explains a correlation between the time Richard Semon was born, in 1859, that was the same year Charles Darwin published Origin of Species. Semon had apparently been deeply influenced by Darwin's work, and the innovative approach to understanding evolution. He began to study at the University of Jena, a major European center for evolutionary research where he became a young rising professor.

Semon's many works went largely neglected for many years, however he held the belief that one day his ideas would achieve widespread recognition among researchers. Schacter claims Semon invented the now popular term "
Engram" that was thought to be invented by another scientist, Karl Lashley, who didn't cite Semon's prior use of the term. Understanding how engrams function is a breakthrough in memory research, as they are the transient or enduring changes in our brains that result from encoding information as an experience.

Another memory research pioneer who influenced Schacter was
Endel Tulving. One of Tulving's most influential ideas is known as the Encoding Specficity Principle. First presented in 1970's, this principle states that the specific way a person thinks about, or encodes, an event determines what "gets into" engram and the likelihood of recalling the memory.

Elizabeth Loftus has been another pivotal figure in memory research studies. For the past 20 years, she has authored 300 scientific research articles related to human memory issues. Many of her studies are considered classic by her colleagues as they uncover evidence about the fragility of human memory over time and how it occurs.