Rain Man RIP

The real Rain Man has passed away:

Kim Peek, who died on December 19 aged 58, was the model for the autistic character Raymond Babbitt in the 1988 film Rain Man, starring Dustin Hoffman.

Hoffman’s portrayal of a middle-aged savant’s complex interaction with the world through astonishing mental facilities and childlike emotions earned him an Oscar for best actor. But it was Peek, who suffered from Agenesis of Corpus Callosum (a condition similar to autism), whom Hoffman and Barry Morrow – Rain Man’s writer, who also won an Oscar – acknowledged as the inspiration behind the performance …

Despite his mother’s uneventful pregnancy, Kim’s head was 30 per cent larger than normal at birth.

He was a sluggish baby who cried frequently, and doctors soon discovered that he had a blister inside his skull that had damaged the left hemisphere of his brain, which controls language and motor skills.

By the time he was nine months old he was expected to be mentally impaired for life.

His parents were advised to place him in an institution, but they dismissed the idea, deciding to bring him up normally alongside their other son and daughter.

They were soon astounded by his progress.

At the age of 16 months Kim taught himself to read children’s books.

When he was three he consulted a dictionary to clarify the meaning of the word “confidential”; it was then that his parents realised that he could also read newspapers.

Yet for all his brilliance, his oversized head required physical support because of its weight; and, unusually, he was unable to walk until he was four.

When Kim was six, a visit to Utah by the renowned brain surgeon Peter Lindstrom resulted in his being offered a lobotomy.

His parents declined, and Kim went on to memorise the entire Bible before his seventh birthday.

By the time he was 14, Kim had completed the high school curriculum, though the local authorities would not recognise the achievement and refused to award him a certificate.

Before the release of Rain Man – by which time he was 37 – Peek had an insular existence, knowing only about 20 people.

Unable to describe his condition, or to dress himself, cook, shave or brush his teeth without help, he was looked after by his mother, Jeanne, until 1981, when his parents divorced. Thereafter his father provided the supervision he required …

Neuroscientists who conducted tests discovered that he had no corpus callosum, the membrane that separates the two hemispheres of the brain and filters information.

This meant that Peek’s brain was effectively the equivalent of a giant databank, giving him his photographic memory.

He was also the only savant known to science who could read two pages of a book simultaneously – one with each eye, regardless of whether it was upside down or sideways on.

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4 Responses to “Rain Man RIP”

  1. jc Says:

    He was also the only savant known to science who could read two pages of a book simultaneously – one with each eye, regardless of whether it was upside down or sideways on.

    Really? That’s amazing.

    Was he intelligent in the “normal” sense?

  2. conrad Says:

    If you get to see it, watch the Daniel Tammet documentary. There’s a great scene where he meets Kim Peek — I won’t spoil it, suffice to say the conversation they have is great.

  3. Steve Edney Says:

    Jc says:
    “Was he intelligent in the “normal” sense?”

    Unable to describe his condition, or to dress himself, cook, shave or brush his teeth without help

    I’d say not.

  4. Steve Edney Says:

    Or more telling from his Wikipedia page

    “In psychological testing, Peek scored below average (73) on general IQ tests”

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