Meet Kim Peek: the incredible case of the man who could memorize everything
Kim Peek: the case of the savant with a superhuman memory
The day of his death, Kim Peek spent all morning opening Christmas cards with Francis , his father, who was his great friend. Kim did not suffer from any illness, nothing seemed to presage that on that day her life would be extinguished forever. He had been with his family preparing the gifts for such marked dates. That same December 19, a heart attack collapsed Kim on the ground.
A man died whose mind had amazed the world, whose story motivated a great movie. Their capabilities were so absolutely implausible that even NASA, as well as multiple universities in the US They studied in depth where such great abilities came from. He had just turned 58 years old.
He was born in 1951. On the same day of his birth, the doctors who gave birth informed his parents that Kim I suffered from a marked mental retardation , that with much security would not allow him to walk, and recommended that Kim be admitted to a center where they could assist him. However, Kim's parents were not satisfied with that idea.
He was diagnosed with macrocephaly , that is, a skull of abnormally large proportions, and its brain had no corpus callosum, the tissue that connects the two hemispheres of the brain and that allows the exchange of information between cells. It is speculated that in the absence of corpus callosum, his neurons were creating their unbridled tissues, joining together and forming a compact mass of connections capable of retaining up to 98% of everything he saw or heard .
Francis Peek, his father, used to say that, at the young age of a year and a half, Kim was able to memorize every book they told him. They moved Kim's finger over each phrase, while they were pronouncing the sounds for Kim to learn. In this way, they came to realize how Kim could remember a book after having read it once. When he finished reading a book, Kim would turn it upside down, as if that book was no longer necessary at all. That habit remained in him throughout his life.
A difficult childhood
At the age of three, Kim asked her mother what the meaning of the word "confidential" was. His mother, in order to stimulate Kim, replied that he could look for it in the dictionary. From there he learned to locate the words in alphabetical order to later read each of the meanings. During his life he came to read and memorize a total of nine thousand books . It was calculated that he could read two pages in a span of 8 to 10 seconds, since he used the left eye to read the left page, while with the right eye he read the right page.
He was unable to walk until he was 4 years old. Already then he lived captivated by numbers and arithmetic, he used to read phone books and amused himself by adding whole columns of telephone numbers, and he did the same with the digits of car license plates.
Adulthood, working life and fame
Beginning in 1969, Kim worked in a special workshop for adults with disabilities. Simply with his mind, without calculators or computers, he was able to solve all the accounting of the company. However, his motor and coordination difficulties were dragging on his life. His father had to help him in daily tasks such as buttoning his shirt buttons, tying shoelaces ... And although he had the ability to memorize with almost absolute precision any text he read, he could not interpret or draw conclusions from his readings. .
In his book "The Real Rain Man", Francis Peek described his son in these terms: "Kim is not an autistic, in fact, his personality is warm and affectionate, Kim genuinely cares about people and likes to share with them. his unique skills, his encyclopedic knowledge include disciplines such as history, biographies, geography, sports, engineering, cinema ... He also knows in depth the Bible, the history of the Mormon Church, the calendar (can guess dates), literature .. He can identify almost any composition of classical music, as well as the dates and place of birth and death of the composer, and he keeps informed about the news in the world and in the USA ".
Kim Peek, Dustin Hoffman and the unforgettable "Rain Man"
Many people will have seen the movie "Rain Man", which came out in 1988 with Dustin Hoffman Y Tom Cruise as protagonists. It was awarded with four statuettes at the Oscars. However, few people know that the character of Raymond Babbit (Dustin Hoffman) was actually inspired by Kim Peek.
It is a curious story: the writer Barry Morrow had finished, a few years ago, a script for the movie "Bill", about a man with mental retardation who had played the well-known actor Mickey Rooney. This film showed the human side of people with mental retardation, distancing themselves from certain clichés.
For his good work, Morrow was invited in 1984 to a conference of the Communications Committee of the ACR, in the state of Texas. Francis Peek, Kim's father, was chairman of the Committee. Kim Peek and Morrow met, and spent several hours chatting. Kim stunned Morrow with his in-depth knowledge of all the authors and books imaginable, citing numerous sports statistics, and "guessing the day of the week in which I was born, my birthday, and the day of my 65th birthday," Morrow said. .
They also argued about the Civil War, the North American Revolution, the great world wars ... Morrow ended up writing a script inspired by Kim Peek, "Rain Man", which turned out to be a great movie.
Kim Peek and Dustin Hoffman
In preparing for the interpretation of Raymond Babbit , the famous actor Dustin Hoffman met Kim and Francis Peek. They changed impressions about the British monarchy, the Bible, sports, dates, geographical points, movies, literature ...
Hoffman spoke some unforgettable words when referring to Kim's talent, when he said "Maybe I am the star, but you Kim is the sky". Picking up the statuette as best actor for his performance in "Rain Man", Hoffman mentioned during his speech: "I want to especially thank Kim Peek for making Rain Man a reality."
From the great repercussion of the film, the life of Kim Peek changed. His figure attracted the attention of journalists and television networks . He began to conduct live conferences in which he interacted with the public. It is estimated that he got to meet with two million people, whom he astonished with his abilities.
His person was the object of several documentaries and reports for Discovery Chanell, CNN, TLC and National Geographic, among others. His father, Francis, said that thanks to all the attention that Kim received, he grew as a person, managing to gain confidence in himself. Before public recognition, on a few occasions he looked in the eyes of his interlocutors. But fame helped him learn to interact and enjoy sharing with other people.