The Guinness Book of Records was started in 1955 by a beer company hoping to settle pub arguments. But the true genius behind the book was NORRIS MCWHIRTER, a former athlete and sports reporter who possessed one of the world's most prodigious memories for trivia. McWhirter, who died playing tennis in Wiltshire, England, last week at the age of 78, edited the book through 1986 and established the rigorous record-screening procedures that made it an authoritative guide to natural phenomena, sports records and dubious human endeavors, such as holding 109 live bees in your mouth.

In 1981 Guinness...

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