Kim Peek

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Kim Peek
Kim Peek on Jan 16, 2007.png
Peek on Jan 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
Parents 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, played by Dustin Hoffman in the movie Rain Man. Unlike Babbitt, who was autistic, Peek had FG syndrome.[4][5]

Early life[edit]

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. He could read quite quickly, scanning the left page with his left eye, then the right page with his right eye. 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 the age of four year 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 up and down; and when he attended school, aged 7, he was expelled for being 'uncontrollable' after just 7 minutes in class. Thereafter, tutors were sent to his home for just 45 minutes, twice a week. They were astonished at the speed with which he devoured books, never realising that he possessed the uncanny ability to read one page with his left eye while at the same time reading the opposite page with his right. By the age of 14, he had completed the high school curriculum four years ahead of schedule.

It was not until he was 18 that he got a job, managing the payroll for 160 people, a task he performed in a few hours a week without the need of a calculator. Later on in his early 30s, he was fired because the authorities computerised the pay-roll. But to his credit, it took two full-time accountants, plus the computer, to replace him.

[12]

Rain Man[edit]

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 Kim 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. 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 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[edit]

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]

Death[edit]

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]

Appearances[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "'Rain Man' reigns in Casper". Casper Star-Tribune. March 14, 2003. Retrieved 2009-07-21. "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." 
  2. ^ "About Kim Peek, Megasavant". York Daily Record. November 4, 1994. Retrieved 2009-07-21. "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." 
  3. ^ "NASA studies mega-savant Peek's brain". USA Today. Associated Press. 2004. Retrieved 2009-07-21. "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." 
  4. ^ Weber B (26 December 2009). "Kim Peek, inspiration for 'Rain Man,' dies at 58". The New York Times. Retrieved 08 January, 2010.
  5. ^ a b c d 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. 
  6. ^ a b "Kim Peek: savant who was the inspiration for the film Rain Man". The Times. 2009-12-23. Retrieved 2009-12-23. 
  7. ^ "The Real Rain Man", documentary by Focus Productions, Bristol, England, UK, 2006.
  8. ^ a b c Savant Syndrome at the Wayback Machine (archived February 6, 2007) Wisconsin Medical Society.
  9. ^ Kim Peek - The Real Rain Man. Wisconsin Medical Society.
  10. ^ a b 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. ^ http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-1238386/Did-Dustin-Hoffman-exploit-rainman-After-death-week-father-makes-startling-accusation.html#ixzz3B7OB7HVH
  13. ^ a b 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/Space.com, November 8, 2004.
  15. ^ https://www.wisconsinmedicalsociety.org/professional/savant-syndrome/profiles-and-videos/profiles/kim-peek-the-real-rain-man/
  16. ^ Video from Kircher Society extravaganza

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]