Kim Peek

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Kim Peek
Kim Peek on Jan 16, 2007.png
Peek on January 16, 2007
Born Laurence Kim Peek
(1951-11-11)November 11, 1951
Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S.
Died December 19, 2009 (aged 58)
Murray, Utah, U.S.
Nationality American
Known for Megasavant
Parent(s) Fran Peek, Jeanne W. Buchi

Laurence Kim Peek (November 11, 1951 – December 19, 2009) was an American savant. Known as a "megasavant",[1][2][3] he had an exceptional memory, but he also experienced social difficulties, possibly resulting from a developmental disability related to congenital brain abnormalities. He was the inspiration for the character of Raymond Babbitt, in the movie Rain Man. Unlike Babbitt, who was autistic, Peek had FG syndrome.[4][5]

Early life

Peek was born in Salt Lake City, Utah[6] with macrocephaly,[5] damage to the cerebellum, and agenesis of the corpus callosum,[7] 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.[5] There is speculation that his neurons made unusual connections due to the absence of a corpus callosum, which resulted in an increased memory capacity.[8][9] According to Peek's father, Fran (Francis) Peek, Kim 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 all his life. He could speed through a book in about an hour and remember 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. Peek read by scanning the left page with his left eye, then the right page with his right eye; his lack of a corpus callosum allowed the eyes to function independently.[citation needed] According to an article in The Times newspaper, he could accurately recall the contents of at least 12,000 books.[6] Peek lived in Murray, Utah and spent a considerable amount of his time reading at the Salt Lake City Library and demonstrating his capabilities at schools, with great help from his father.[10]

Peek did not walk until he was four years old, and then in a sidelong manner.[8] 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.[11]

At 6, it was suggested that he have a lobotomy to 'cure' his incessant chattering, fidgeting and pacing; when he attended school, aged 7, he was expelled for being 'uncontrollable' after just 7 minutes in class.[12] Following this, tutors visited his house twice a week for 45 minutes; by the age of 14, Peek had completed the high school curriculum.[12]

Aged 18, he got a job working out the payroll for 160 people: this was a task that took him only a few hours, without the need for a calculator. However, he became unemployed a decade later when his employers decided to computerize payroll accounting, and he was replaced by two full-time accountants and a computer.[12]

Rain Man

In 1984, screenwriter 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 autistic. 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 led to a number of requests for appearances, which increased Peek's self-confidence. Barry Morrow gave Peek his Oscar statuette to carry with him and show at these appearances; it has since been referred to as the "Most Loved Oscar Statue"[13] as it has been held by more people than any other. Peek 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 also appeared on television. He travelled with his father, who took care of him and performed many motor tasks that Peek found difficult.[8]

Scientific investigation

In 2004, scientists at the Center for Bioinformatics Space Life Sciences at the NASA Ames Research Center examined Peek with a series of tests including computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging. The intent was to create a three-dimensional view of his brain structure and to compare the images to MRI scans done in 1988. These were the first tentative approaches in using non-invasive technology to further investigate Kim's savant abilities.[14]

A 2008 study concluded that Peek probably had FG syndrome, a rare genetic syndrome linked to the X chromosome which causes physical anomalies such as hypotonia (low muscle tone) and macrocephaly (abnormally large head).[5]


Peek died of a heart attack at his home on December 19, 2009, aged 58.[10][13] His father, Fran, died on April 5, 2014, aged 88.[15]



  1. "'Rain Man' reigns in Casper". Casper Star-Tribune. March 14, 2003. Retrieved July 21, 2009. The difference between a savant and a megasavant like Peek is that Peek has nearly total recall in around 14 to 15 different subject areas, according to literature written by Peek's father, Fran Peek.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "About Kim Peek, Megasavant". York Daily Record. November 4, 1994. Retrieved July 21, 2009. Kim Peek is a megasavant who has memorized vast numbers of facts about more than a dozen subjects. He has brain damage, which occurred before birth, but he is not autistic.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "NASA studies mega-savant Peek's brain". USA Today. Associated Press. 2004. Retrieved July 21, 2009. The 53-year-old Peek is called a "mega-savant" because he is a genius in about 15 different subjects, from history and literature and geography to numbers, sports, music and dates.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Weber B (December 26, 2009). "Kim Peek, inspiration for 'Rain Man,' dies at 58". The New York Times. Retrieved January 8, 2010.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Opitz JM, Smith JF, Santoro L (September 2008). "The FG syndromes (Online Mendelian Inheritance in Man 305450): perspective in 2008". Adv Pediatr. 55 (1): 123–70. doi:10.1016/j.yapd.2008.07.014. PMID 19048730.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. 6.0 6.1 "Kim Peek: savant who was the inspiration for the film Rain Man". The Times. December 23, 2009. Retrieved December 23, 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. "The Real Rain Man", documentary by Focus Productions, Bristol, England, UK, 2006.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Savant Syndrome at the Wayback Machine (archived February 6, 2007) Wisconsin Medical Society.
  9. Kim Peek - The Real Rain Man. Wisconsin Medical Society.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Stephenson, Kathy. "Kim Peek, Murray man who inspired 'Rain Man', dies", The Salt Lake Tribune. December 22, 2009.
  11. "Inside the Mind of a Savant" Darold A. Treffert and Daniel D. Christensen. Scientific American. December 23, 2009.
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 Jones, David (December 27, 2009). "Did Dustin Hoffman exploit the Rain Man? After his death this week, his father makes a startling accusation". Daily Mail. Retrieved May 3, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. 13.0 13.1 Weber, Bruce. "Kim Peek, Inspiration for 'Rain Man,' Dies at 58". The New York Times. December 27, 2009.
  14. "NASA Studying 'Rain Man's' Brain"; Associated Press/, November 8, 2004.
  16. Video from Kircher Society extravaganza

Further reading

External links