It is said about Thomas Alva Edison that perhaps he is the only man who is credited with at least one thousand inventions, but his memory was nil.
In the First World War he was standing in a queue to receive his ration card. Ration cards had come into existence for the first time. By and by the queue became smaller and smaller, and finally he came to the front and the clerk shouted, “Thomas Alva Edison!” – he looked here and there, because he had forgotten his name. Because it was long, long ago…when his father and mother were alive, they used to call him by name. Now he was so well known, such a great scientist, a great professor that nobody used his name, people called him ‘Professor.’ He himself had forgotten. Fortunately, one man in the queue behind him recognized that this fellow looked like Thomas Alva Edison, who was standing in front and looking here and there.
And the man said, “What is your name?”
Edison said, “My God, I will have to go home and ask my wife.”
The man said, “As far as I know, you are Thomas Alva Edison.”
Edison said, “It seems I have heard this name somewhere before. Perhaps I am. If nobody else claims it, then that card is mine.”
He was such a great intelligence. You cannot find many more people of that intelligence. But, going for a lecture tour, before getting into the car, he said good-bye to his wife and kissed her and waved at her maidservant. And the wife said, “You are absolutely wrong; I am your maidservant and she is your wife!”
He said, “The whole day I am so engaged in experiments. I only come home at night. It is a long time since I have seen my wife in the sunlight, so please forgive me – whichever is my wife, I kiss her, and whichever is my maidservant, I wave to her. But let me go, because the train is standing at the platform.”
Absolutely no memory! His wife used to keep notes of his thoughts because sometimes he would come to a thought, but it was incomplete. And before he forgot it, he would tell somebody, whoever was close by, “Please write it down and keep it for me. Whenever I need it, just remind me – because half is missing. It will come, but my fear is that when the other half comes, this half may be lost.”
Somebody suggested, “You are behaving strangely. Why don’t you keep a notebook?”
He said, “That is the trouble. I have been keeping notebooks, but then I go on forgetting where I have put them. Then the notebook becomes the problem. This is far better. At least somebody is responsible for the half thought and he will remind me: ‘This is half your thought. If the other half has come to your mind, take this and relieve me of the burden.’”