George Miller, who wrote the almost-magical essay “The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two“, died this past week. The essay appeared in the Psychological Review (vol. 101, no. 2, 1956, pp. 343-352). It begins:
My problem is that I have been persecuted by an integer. For seven years this number has followed me around, has intruded in my most private data, and has assaulted me from the pages of our most public journals. This number assumes a variety of disguises, being sometimes a little larger and sometimes a little smaller than usual, but never changing so much as to be unrecognizable. The persistence with which this number plagues me is far more than a random accident. There is, to quote a famous senator, a design behind it, some pattern governing its appearances. Either there really is something unusual about the number or else I am suffering from delusions of persecution….