Kim Peek, the inspiration for 'Rain Man', dies of heart attack

The autistic savant whose extraordinary genius for mental retention inspired the Oscar-winning film Rain Man has died, his parents confirmed yesterday.

Kim Peek, 58, died of a heart attack in Utah on Saturday morning after suffering from serious upper respiratory problems in recent weeks, his father, Fran Peek, said. He was said to have memorised the contents of 9,000 books, including the plays of Shakespeare and both old and new testaments of the Bible. But he also suffered from deep mental disabilities. At the time of his birth, doctors had recommended putting him an institution, saying his condition meant he would never walk or talk. "We refused," his father recalled.

Kim Peek grew into a shy adult whose life trajectory was set to change unutterably with a chance meeting in the early 1980s at a convention with a Hollywood screenwriter, Barry Morrow. It inspired Morrow to write Rain Man, which starred Dustin Hoffman as a savant and Tom Cruise as his brother. The film won four Oscars, including a Best Actor award for Hoffman.

It also spelled the end of Mr Peek's privacy. Thereafter he toured the world lecturing on the unsual capability of his brain. He was named Kim-puter by some of his friends. "He had a depth and breadth of knowledge and a memory that was just unbelievable," Daniel Christensen, a professor at the University of Utah's Neuropsychiatric Institute, told The Salt Lake Tribune newspaper. "He was unique. I don't know if there will ever be another person quite like Kim."

Scans carried out on Mr Peek's brain revealed that it lacked a corpus callosum, which contains the tissue that would normally connect its two halves. The condition meant he would retain about 98 per cent of everything he read or heard, against 45 per cent for the average person.

By the time of his death at the weekend, Mr Peek had spoken to more than 64 million people about his special condition. And his ability to give the postcode of any location in the US, or a string of significant events for any date in history, left an indelible mark. "It was just unbelievable, all the things that he knew," his father said.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales and Marketing Executive

£19000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Technical Author / Multimedia Writer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This recognized leader in providing software s...

Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent