Leader comment: Scotland invented Mastermind in the 19th century

Hirushi Wickramaratne and Charles Figes with the Blackstone Chair, which comes complete with a sand-filled hourglass, which added to the tension of questioning (Picture: John Devlin)
Hirushi Wickramaratne and Charles Figes with the Blackstone Chair, which comes complete with a sand-filled hourglass, which added to the tension of questioning (Picture: John Devlin)
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So, was Mastermind actually invented in Scotland during the first half of 19th century?

The BBC quiz show is regarded as one of the most daunting because the toughness and quick-fire nature of the questions, the special seat isolating the contestant in a lonely spotlight, and the pressure to answer as time runs out.

Okay, the Glasgow University version, dating back to 1839, wasn’t actually on the telly, but only because that wasn’t invented until about 90 years later. And the other ingredients are pretty much there – the scary chair, some pretty tricky questions and, while it didn’t have dramatic music, there was the sound of sand running out in an hourglass just above your head!

Admittedly there was only really one specialised subject, Latin, although as Professor Costas Panayotakis explained this is not simply “the detailed study of grammar and syntax”, but a way to connect with an “astonishingly rich culture” that helped define Western civilisation.

So no suggestion of dumbing down in the original Mastermind, at least.

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