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Kim Peek

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Kim Peek, Mormon savant
Kim Peek, Mormon savant

Kim Peek was a Utah resident, born on November 11, 1951, and the inspiration for the character Raymond Babbit in the movie Rain Man (played by Dustin Hoffman). He was a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (sometimes casually called the Mormon Church). He has been called the "most prodigious intellectual mega-savant in the world." "He had a photographic or eidetic memory, but also social difficulties, possibly resulting from a developmental disability related to congenital brain abnormalities. He was not autistic and likely had FG syndrome." [1] The main character in Rain Man suffered from autism.

Peek's parents were initially reluctant to have Kim publicly identified with the 1988 film that swept the Oscars for Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay. They didn't want the attention to harm Kim, especially because of his disabilities. Ultimately, though, Kim became a celebrity in many circles because of his gentle soul and his massive intellect in more than 15 diverse areas, from music and sports to math and history. [2] Peek seemed to blossom after the movie was released. He traveled nearly 3 million air miles and spoke with nearly 60 million people. He was hailed by LDS Church leaders as "an influence for good in the lives of many."

Kim sat beside screen-writer Barry Morrow during the movie's premiere. Afterward, Morrow asked him why he never once looked at the screen.

"I watched it with my heart," Kim replied. And evidently memorized it, as well, along with his beloved Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants and thousands of other books he could recite word-for-word.

Kim Peek was reading from the Old Testament as a toddler. Family members say he taught himself to read. Kim Peek had an impressive photographic memory and had memorized more than 9000 (perhaps even 12,000) books by the time of his death. Surprisingly, the savant's memory was actually improving with age. [3] It appears that Peek was able to read two pages of a book at the same time, one with his left eye and one with his right.

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.[4]

Memorization was the most noticeable talent manifested by Peek as a youth, but remarkably, new talents and abilities appeared as he reached out after Rain Man was produced. He showed increasing social skills. His sense of humor became more refined. Although he had difficulty with abstractions, his creativity seemed to increase. In late adulthood he began to study the piano. He remembered music he had heard in his youth and was able to recreate it. He also recited musical comparisons while playing.

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. [5]

He died on December 19, 2009, at the age of 58 of an apparent heart attack.