Kim Peek (November 11, 1951 – December 19, 2009)
Kim Peek was an American savant. Known as a “megasavant”, he had an exceptional memory, he experienced some social difficulties, however he grew to be outwardly engaging.
According to Peek’s father, Fran 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. He could speed through a book in about an hour and remember almost everything he had read, memorizing vast amounts of information. According to an article in The Times newspaper, he could accurately recall the contents of at least 12,000 books.
He was the inspiration for the character of Raymond Babbitt, played by Dustin Hoffman in the movie Rain Man.
Screenwriter Barry Morrow gave Kim his Oscar statuette to carry with him and show at appearances; it has since been referred to as the “Most Loved Oscar Statue” as it has been held by more people than any other. Kim also enjoyed approaching strangers and 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 many times. Kim Peek’s parents divorced in 1981, and his father cared for him alone until his son’s death.
During one presentation Mr. Peek gave at Oxford University in England, after he fielded students’ questions about the Lusitania and about British monarchs, a young woman stood and asked him, “Kim, are you happy?”
“I’m happy just to look at you,” Mr. Peek said.
Peek died of a heart attack on December 19, 2009 at age 58.
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