NAME: Harry Nelson Pillsbury
BIRTHDATE: December 5, 1872
BIRTHPLACE: Somerville, Massachusetts
CREDENTIALS: Stands among the greats Paul Morphy and Bobby Fischer as one of the best chess players in American history. At the age of 22, Pillsbury played in Europe at the Hastings 1895 chess tournament and reached celebrity status as the victor. He also won the 1898 American championship.
Perhaps one of Pilllsbury's most amazing talents was his incredible memory. He was known as one of the best blindfold chess players in the world. He was known to hold exhibitions in which he would simultaneously play 10 opponents at chess and 10 opponents at checkers--while not seeing any of the boards AND while playing cards!
Learned chess at the age of 15, on Thanksgiving Day. Soon became one of the best players in America (eventually winning the American championship) and traveled to play in Europe. When back in the United States, he worked for years as the hidden operator inside an "automatic" chess machine called Ajeeb on Coney Island.

He was an amazing performer wherever he went. For example, one time when performing the blindfold exhibition described above, he was given a list of words to memorize by 2 university professors. (To put it mildly the words weren't common: antiphlogistine, periosteum, takadiastase, plasmon, ambrosia, Threlkeld, strepococcus, straphylococcus, micrococcus, plasmodium, Mississippi, Freiheit, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, athletics, no war, Etchenberg, American, Russian, philosophy, Piet Potgelter's Rost, Salamagundi, Oomisellecootsi, Bangmanvate, Schlechter's Nek, Manzinyama, theosophy, catechism, and Madjesoomalops.) After a few minutes, Pillsbury was able to recite the list forward and backward. The following day, he demonstrated to the professors that he could still recite the list, forward or backward.

Poor health was a persistent challenge for Pillsbury and he battled syphilis for years. He died in 1906, only 34 years old, from the disease.