Sarah's Chess Journal

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         The History and The Culture of Chess

Pillsbury's Brain
June 2007

Lawrence Totaro, proprietor of Ultimate Chess Collecting unearthed this scientific discovery:


from the New York Times, November 25, 1900



  Columbia Professor Finds the Chess
          Expert Normal After Tests

   Harry N. Pillsbury, the chess expert, was a subject Friday evening at an exhibition at Columbia University under the direction of the department of psychology, Pillsbury was subjected by Prof. J. McK. Cattell [James McKeen Cattell - sbc], Professor of Psychology, to the same tests which are given to the freshmen. They include trials of memory, perception of sound, and sensitiveness of touch. Prof. Cattell said that he found nothing abnormal about Pillsbury and that he would rank among the first 25 per cent of the freshmen.
     After the tests, Pillsbury, blindfolded, played sixteen simultaneous games of chess with Columbia's chess team. He won thirteen of the games, lost two and one was a draw.


James McKeen Cattell was an eminent psychologist
who lived between 1860 and 1944. He systematically
studied reaction times between physical activities and
the mental response, coming up with the term "mental tests."
Such tests included: hand squeeze strength, pain resistance,
two-point threshold for touch,  judging the duration of ten seconds
weight differential, reaction time to sound, time for naming colors,
bisection of a 50-centimeter line and hand movement rate.




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