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Kim Peek, Man Who Inspired 'Rain Man' Movie, Dies

The man who inspired the Oscar-winning film 'Rain Man', starring Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise, has died. He was 58.

His father, Fran, says Peek had a major heart attack Saturday morning and was pronounced dead at a hospital in Salt Lake City.

Peek was a savant with a remarkable memory, who could memorise a book after reading it once, and inspired writer Barry Morrow when he wrote the 1988 film. The movie went on to win Oscars for best film and best actor for Dustin Hoffman.

Born in 1951, Peek was diagnosed as severely mentally retarded and his parents were advised to place him in an institution. Thirty years later, he was classified as a 'mega-savant' who was a genius in roughly 15 different subjects.

When Dustin Hoffman met Fran Peek while researching his role in Rain Man, he advised him not so hide his son away.

"Dustin Hoffman said to me, you have to promise me one thing about this guy, share him with the world. And pretty soon it got so that nobody was a stranger to him, they were people, and so was he."

By the time of his death he had committed more than 9,000 books to memory. He would read eight books a day, usually taking less than 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.

Savantism is not a formally recognised medical condition but it is often associated with developmental disorders such as autism.

Hence, while Peek was thought of as a 'mega-savant, he couldn't perform some simple tasks like dressing himself.

December 22, 2009 |

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