© 2019 Emily Alexander

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GOD BLESS THE PACKRATS

an agnostic's view on memory

At an estate sale I found several journals, books, illustrations and letters belonging to a man named Howard Watts. ​He had recently died but without any living relatives all his possessions were up for grabs. After buying some of things, I discovered Watts' intriguing backstory, his connection with his only friend and their relentless study of the forms of recollection.

"I met Johannes Frank Fritz in the Spring of 1948, nine years before his stroke. I was visiting Somerset College, for a conference on Hindsight Bias and Memory Distortion. After the conference, while I was walking the dimly lit campus, back to my lodgings, I heard loud and alluring laughter from the Lev Rockmore auditorium. Out of curiosity and lack of future plans, I entered the auditorium. Soon, I realized I was witnessing a lecture by the great Johannes Frank Fritz. His theories and research in memory were groundbreaking for the time and still remain so. Many modern developments in memory research are seeded in Fritz’s ideas and discoveries. I remember his slender frame and worn wool sweater. He held himself humbly, moving his hands strictly in tandem with his mouth. When at last he finished, I approached him with eager urgency. He was receptive to my clumsy display of admiration and kindly spent the next several hours discussing with me, in great detail his effulgent ideas. I had been a long-time admirer of Fritz, firstly, when I read his paper on Cognitive Models of False Autobiographical Memory in my freshman year. Fritz demonstrated, in our lengthy night of discussion over numerous cups of tea, his kind, brilliant and passionate nature. In this book you will not find the technical jargon of Fritz’s work, but rather the poetic effervescence of which our memories are made. This is an homage to his lifelong dedication to memory research. This is the best and only way I know how to honor him through recording in detail my own memories of this great man."

-Howard Watts

Memory Historian

20th October 2000

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