December 22, 2009

"I have so many things in me that you can't even guess them all." — Kim Peek.

Kim Peek, the real "Rain Man," dead now, at 58.
... Mr Peek was diagnosed as severely mentally retarded and his parents were advised to place him in an institution and forget about him. Thirty years later, he was classified as a "mega-savant," a genius in about 15 different subjects, from history and literature and geography to numbers, sports, music and dates....

He would read eight books a day, taking just ten seconds to read a page. He could read two pages simultaneously, his left eye reading the left page and his right eye reading the right page.

But throughout his life he still needed 24-hour care. Despite his great mental agility, his motor skills remained limited; he could not perform simple tasks such as dressing himself or combing his hair.

His father Fran became his sole carer after Mr Peek's parent divorced in 1975. Fran Peek said that care of his son was a 30-hour-day, 10-day-a-week job but he did it devotedly, encouraging Kim to make the most of his abilities. But Mr Peek remained deeply introverted. It was not until he met Dustin Hoffman, when the Hollywood star was researching his role in Rain Man, that he could look into another person's face. He was 37 at the time.


ricpic said...

I can tie my shoes.

Henry said...

Oh no! You need to correct the tag - Meek/Peek -- before the ghost of Rainman curses you.

Ann Althouse said...

Thanks, Henry. I feel like the ghost of Arnold Stang made me do it.

The Crack Emcee said...

The world has lost an amazing man. Smart as a whip and he never hurt nobody, admired by all.

Gosh, I don't get to say that often.

That, alone, really saddens me too.

traditionalguy said...

This man was hard wired like us but ran another softwear program. Normal folks balance their compasion with their pure intelligence programs. Knowing everything must have been a frightening thing. I thank God that I am not that gifted.

Methadras said...

The Crack Emcee said...

The world has lost an amazing man. Smart as a whip and he never hurt nobody, admired by all.

Gosh, I don't get to say that often.

That, alone, really saddens me too.


bearbee said...

The dark side of the moon.

Do experts know what caused his brain damage?

If he had not had brain damage would he have been a genius or did the damage cause the brain to rewire itself creating a system of super compensation?

He was fortunate to have a devoted parent.

vbspurs said...

I aspire to be a living Google too. RIP.


AllenS said...

God bless this man's father.

Michael Haz said...

Kim Peek would have been an excellent addition to the "I'm a Mac" commercials.

Hi. I'm a Mac.

And I'm a PC.

And I'm a Atari 400 running Linux that I config'd myself.

NotWhoIUsedtoBe said...

That's really too bad.

It's too bad he didn't live in a time where he could have fully used his abilities.

Anonymous said...

"It's too bad he didn't live in a time where he could have fully used his abilities."

The real question is would he be carried to term today? Would he exist at all? In the future such people will not exist.

Larry Thompson said...

As I remember, though, the savant was not "Rain Man". That was the name he called his brother, Raymond, in the movie.

traditionalguy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joaquin said...

Don't take this the wrong way, but I hope that his brain can be studied.

mariner said...

That was touching.

God bless Fran.

re: Rain Man -- When Charlie (Tom Cruise) was a wee lad "Rain Man" was the way he spoke his brother Raymond's name.

Moose said...

I gotta chuckle that of all the posts you might see here in Althouse, this one gets so few comments. People are really struck dumb when they see how truly inexplicable the human animal can be...

NotWhoIUsedtoBe said...


That is EXACTLY what I worry about- the combination of genetic testing and abortion.

How many people aren't perfect enough to live?

Cedarford said...

LarsPorsena said...
"It's too bad he didn't live in a time where he could have fully used his abilities."

The real question is would he be carried to term today? Would he exist at all? In the future such people will not exist.

1. For the last 70 years, autistics were allowed to live with certain attentions to their well-being in certain advanced coubtries. Elsewhere, discardable.

2. From the mid-1700s to the 1930s and beyond in certain countries, autistics were institutionalized. Discardable in the rest of the world - highly unlikely to be fed and survive childhood, or subject to direct infanticide.

3. For the rest of human history across all cultures and religions...discardables. Even medieval folks who tended to think the retarded were without sin and were cared for, drew the line at troublesome autistics (thought demon possessed).

4. In the future, if we can come up with a good early autism birth defect test, it is unlikely that many will carry fetuses with that SEVERE affliction. Another factor is already Europe is cutting back on special schooling for certain mental disorders as not cost effective...and just today the Wash Post said Ireland was forced to end a full subsidy for two parents staying out of the workforce to care for their autistics or other SEVERELY defective kids. Going forward, only one parent will get subsidy, and the "special" things for "special needs" children are drying up. There is no money.

Penny said...

"There is no money."

You got something there, but only the Europeans allow that to get in the way. America appears to be dealing with autism in her own way.

We've expanded the definition to now include those with "autism spectrum disorder", which pretty much includes unruly kids with parents looking for something to blame besides poor parenting.

Surprise! We happen to have a team of doctor psych types at your disposal, if only you will let them "test". And then of course, once identified through "test", we will be here to "treat".

America is superior at putting foxes in charge of her hen houses.

Unfortunately, she continues to mistake EXCHANGING feathers with creating wealth.

Penny said...

To keep on topic, what's in it for Rainman or the Kim Peek's?

The larger we make the pool of rainmen, the more attention paid, the more "feathers" exchanged, the greater the need for the really BIG, GOVERNMENT foxes to intervene with legislation on exactly how we are to exchange our "feathers", dammit!

The government is the arbiter of "Feather Equality" afterall.

MamaM said...

"diagnosed as severely mentally retarded "
"classified as a "mega-savant," a genius in about 15 different subjects"

Each classification was limited by the information and understanding available at the time it was made.

I am currently unwilling to use the term "brain damage" to refer to the aberration Kim Peek revealed.

David Baker said...

Many interesting aspects regarding the testing of Kim Peek, particularly the rigidity of the testers. It's also highly doubtful that Peek was autistic, a grab-bag diagnosis. And a bad place to start when the goal is in understanding an uncommon mind.

One of the researchers (testers) seemed dismissive of Peek's responses, saying Peek was limited to stock, predetermined behaviors, indicating the tester's own, albeit unintended, myopia.

It seems to understand the son, one must first understand the father, the only individual who fully understood Kim Peek.

Anonymous said...

No one has commented on the PC use of the term "savant" to refer to these high-performing autistics. The term used to be "idiot savant," which makes sense no matter how harsh it sounds. But calling mentally defective persons "savants" implies, at least to me, that they're all Einsteins, which is exactly wrong (or wrong in all instances but their one area of sagacity).

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Anonymous said...

@bearbee Hi! Kim had a condition known as agenesis of the corpus callosum, meaning that the part of the brain which in essence connects the two hemispheres of the brain never developed. Scientists seem to think that possibly this tended to make his brain more like a hard drive for absorbing facts, with little of the ability to understand abstract nuances and respond emotionally to events. At least that's my simplified understanding. Cheers! Peter

Unknown said...

@Penny: you think that bad behavior is *exclusively* due to bad parenting, but consider apparently minor ADHD and spectrum symptoms that lead an otherwise bright kid to real frustration. How would you react if words you read were missing every third syllable?

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