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"There's only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that's your own self. "

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Kim Peek - The Real Rain Man

Laurence Kim Peek (November 11, 1951 – December 19, 2009)
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An American savant. Known as a "megasavant", he had a photographic or eidetic memory, but also social difficulties, possibly resulting from a developmental disability related to congenital brain abnormalities. He was the inspiration for the character of Raymond Babbitt, played by Dustin Hoffman, in the movie Rain Man. Unlike Babbitt, Peek was not autistic, and likely had FG syndrome.

Sad Update: December 21, 2009
Kim Peek—Home for Christmas

I received a sad phone call from Fran Peek about dinner time on Saturday, December 19th 2009. He called to tell me Kim Peek had died suddenly of a heart attack earlier that afternoon. Kim had not been ill and he and his Dad were looking forward to the Holiday season. They had been opening Christmas cards earlier in the day and Kim liked them all. Kim had his 58th birthday in November.

There has never been, and there will never be, another person like Kim Peek. His talents were unique, exceptional and spectacular. And the story of the love and bond between he and his Dad was inspirational. Their willingness to share both the skills and the story with so many audiences world-wide so unselfishly was their gift to us. Kim says “Rain Man changed my life.” Well, Kim, you in turn, along with your Dad, touched and changed our lives as well.

Last night I looked up and saw a new star in the heavens. It shown brightly but it had a uniquely different shape than all the rest. It was truly one of a kind. Kim was one of a kind.

Kim went home for Christmas.

Kim always said he and his Dad shared the same shadow. While you would expect that shadow to be dimmed a bit now, I don't think it is. It remains as as a refreshing, indelible memory of a most unique and special person. It was a privilege to have known him.

Fran and Kim were never into e mail and the internet. Kim was his own internet and was a living Google. But if you have a message you would like to send to Fran by e mail you can send it to daroldt@charter.net and I will personally see to it that Fran gets those in my correspondence with him.

Darold Treffert


Biography

He was born in Salt Lake City, Utah with macrocephaly, [citation needed] damage to the cerebellum, and, perhaps most important, agenesis of the corpus callosum, a condition in which the bundle of nerves that connects the two hemispheres of the brain is missing; in Peek's case, secondary connectors such as the anterior commissure were also missing. There is speculation that his neurons made unusual connections due to the absence of a corpus callosum, which results in an increased memory capacity. According to Peek's father, Fran, Peek was able to memorize things from the age of 16-20 months. He read books, memorized them, and then placed them upside down on the shelf to show that he had finished reading them, a practice he maintained. He read a book in about an hour, and remembered almost everything he had read, memorizing vast amounts of information in subjects ranging from history and literature, geography, and numbers to sports, music, and dates. His reading technique consisted of reading the left page with his left eye and the right page with his right eye and in this way he could read two pages at a time with a rate of about 8-10 seconds per page. It is believed he could recall the content of at least 12,000 books from memory.[6] Peek lived in Murray, Utah[9] and was a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Peek did not walk until the age of four and walked in a sidelong manner. He could not button up his shirt and had difficulty with other ordinary motor skills, presumably due to his damaged cerebellum, which normally coordinates motor activities. In psychological testing, Peek scored below average (87) on general IQ tests.

Unlike many savants, Peek had shown increasing social skills, perhaps due to the attention that had come with being perceived as the "real Rain Man". His father says that his sense of humor had been emerging since 2004 or so. Also, he had developed well beyond the stage of being a mere repository of vast amounts of information; his skills at associating information he remembers were at least one of the signs of creativity. He displayed difficulty with abstractions such as interpreting the meanings of proverbs or metaphorical terms of speech.

Although never a musical prodigy, Peek's musical abilities as an adult were receiving more notice when he started to study the piano. He apparently remembered music he heard decades ago and could play it on the piano, to the extent permitted by his limited physical dexterity. He was able to give running spoken commentary on the music as he played, for example, comparing a piece of music to other music he had heard. In listening to recordings he could distinguish which instruments play which part and was adept at guessing the composers of new music by comparing the music to the many thousands of music samples in his memory.

Rain Man

In 1984, script writer Barry Morrow met Peek in Arlington, Texas; the result of the meeting was the 1988 movie Rain Man. The character of Raymond Babbitt, although inspired by Peek, was portrayed as having autism. Dustin Hoffman, who played Babbitt, met Peek and other savants to get an understanding of their nature and to play the role accurately and methodically. The movie caused a number of requests for appearances, which increased Peek's self-confidence. Barry Morrow gave Kim his Oscar statuette to carry with him and show at these appearances. It has been referred to as the "Most Loved Oscar Statue" since it's been held by more people than any other Oscar statue. Kim also enjoyed approaching strangers and showing them his talent for calendar calculations by telling them on which day of the week they were born and what news items were on the front page of major newspapers. Peek had also appeared on television. He traveled with his father, who took care of him and performed many motor tasks that Peek found difficult.