The 55-year history of Guinness World Records began with a single question, the type that has been repeated millions of times at dinner parties, pubs, classrooms and work places across the globe.
During a shooting party in County Wexford, Ireland, in 1951, Sir Hugh Beaver - then Managing Director of the Guinness Brewery - asked a simple question: what was Europe's fastest game bird? Despite a heated argument and an exhaustive search within the host's reference library the answer could not be found.
Sir Hugh realized that similar questions were going unanswered all around the world, and that a definitive book containing superlative facts and answers would be of great use to the general public. With the help of the London-based fact-finding twins Norris and Ross McWhirter, he set about bringing this definitive collection of superlative facts to reality. On 27 August 1955, the first edition of "The Guinness Book of Records" was bound and, by Christmas that year, became Britain's number one bestseller.
Over the intervening years, copies of The Guinness Book of Records - later renamed Guinness World Records - have continued to fly off bookshop shelves. During this time, it has become clear that, to our readers, a world record is more than a simple fact: it's a means of understanding your position in the world… a yardstick for measuring how you and those around you fit in. Knowing the extremes - the biggest, the smallest, the fastest, the most and the least - offers a way of comprehending and digesting an increasingly complex world overloaded with information.