Kim Peek The Real Rain Man
Darold Treffert, MD
( Photos on this page Copyright of, and supplied by,
Salinas Valley Memorial Healthcare System, California/Photographer: Richard Green )
Video excerpt from Expedition ins Gehirn (Beautiful
Minds: A Voyage Into the Brain)
Shown here with the permission of Colourfield
Productions, Dortmund, Germany
[Windows Media Files approx. 6:00]
Video excerpt from the Brainman documentary
Shown here with the permission of Focus Productions,
[Windows Media Files approx. 4:38]
Verklighetens Rain Man
English Excerpts from a Swedish Documentary by Anders S. Nilsson
With comments by Kim and Fran Peek, Drs. Treffert and Christensen, and Barry Morrow (screenwriter).
Approx. 19 Minutes
Format: Flash Video
Seven minute compiliation of never before seen footage from The Real Rain Man
Shown here with the permission of Focus Productions,
Approx. 7 Minutes
Format: Flash Video
Go to the latest update on Kim
Peek was the inspiration for screen writer Barry Morrow's
1988 Oscar-winning movie Rain Man. Mr. Morrow had earlier
been involved in writing the story for the television movie
Bill, about a mentally retarded person sensitively portrayed
by Mickey Rooney. As a result of that interest, and ability,
in 1984 Mr. Morrow was invited to attend a Communications
Committee meeting of the Association for Retarded Citizens
(ARC) in Arlington, Texas. Kim's father, Fran, was Chairman
of that committee. Kim met Mr. Morrow there and, according
to Fran's book The Real Rain Man, they spent several
hours together. Kim astonished Mr. Morrow by correcting the
ZIP codes on membership lists they perused, being familiar
with almost every author and book in the library, quoting
an unending amount of sports trivia, relating complex driving
instructions to most anywhere and giving Mr. Morrow "my date
of birth and day of the week I was born, the day of the week
this year, and day of the week and year I would turn 65 so
I could think about retiring." They also discussed events
of the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, World Wars I and
II, Korea and Vietnam. Mr. Morrow decided to write a script
inspired by Kim Peek's abilities and it was that script
Rain Man that eventually evolved into that splendid
movie, making 'savant' a household term.
In the course of his preparation for playing the part of
Raymond Babbitt Rain Man, Dustin Hoffman met with Kim
Peek and his father in February, 1987. Fran Peek describes
that "special day with Dustin" at length in his book about
Kim and chronicles in some detail Kim's encyclopedic memory
feats as shared with Mr. Hoffman including facts about British
Monarchs, the Bible, baseball, horse racing, dates, times,
places, composers, melodies, movies, geography, space program,
authors and literature. Dustin Hoffman's parting remark to
Kim, according to his father was: "I may be the star, but
you are the heavens." When Dustin Hoffman accepted his Oscar
in March, 1989 he opened his response with: "My special thanks
to Kim Peek for making Rain Man a reality."
Along the way to its completion, the original script for
the movie Rain Man underwent a number of modifications.
While Kim Peek served as the initial inspiration for the story,
Raymond Babbitt, as portrayed so admirably by Dustin Hoffman,
is a composite savant with abilities drawn from a number of
different real life individuals. The main character in that
movie, Raymond Babbitt, was modified to be an autistic savant.
The story thus is that of a person who is autistic but also
has savant skills grafted on to that basic autistic disorder.
It is important to remember, therefore, that not all autistic
persons are savants, and not all savants are autistic. In
preparation for his role, Dustin Hoffman spent time with several
other autistic savants and their families, as well as with
Fran Peek describes his son this way: "Kim is not behaviorally
autistic. He has a warm, loving personality. He truly cares
for people and enjoys sharing his unique skills and knowledge
capacity. Known as Kimputer' to many, his knowledge-library
includes World and American History, People and Leaders, Geography
(roads and highways in U.S. and Canada), Professional Sports
(baseball, basketball, football, Kentucky Derby winners etc),
the Space Program, Movies and movie themes, Actors and Actresses,
the Bible, Mormon Church Doctrine and History, Calendar Calculations
(including a person's day of birth, present year's birthday,
and the year and the date the person will turn 65 years old
so he or she can retire), Literature/Authors, Shakespeare, Telephone
Area Codes, major Zip Codes, all TV stations and their markets.
He can identify most classical music compositions and tell the
date the music was written and the composer's birth date and
place of birth and death Kim has read (and can recall) some
7600 books. He also keeps current on world, U.S. and most local
events by reading newspapers, magazines and by listening to
the media. He reads constantly He can also describe the highways
that go to a person's small town, the county, area code and
zip code, television stations available in the town, who the
person's pay their telephone bill to, and describe any historical
events that may have occurred in their area. His expertise includes
at least 14 subject areas."
|Fran and Kim
Kim Peek was born on November 11, 1951. He had an enlarged
head, with an encephalocele, according to his doctors. An
MRI shows, again according to his doctors, an absent corpus
callosum the connecting tissue between the left and
right hemispheres; no anterior commissure and damage to the
cerebellum. Only a thin layer of skull covers the area of
the previous encephalocele.
With respect to early development, Kim's father indicates
that at age 16-20 months Kim was able to memorize every book
that was read to him. His parents moved Kim's finger along
each sentence being read. Kim would memorize a book after
a single reading and having read that particular book he would
put it aside, upside down, so that no one would attempt to
read it to him again. Even today, all reading materials are
placed by Kim upside down or put backwards on a shelf.
At age three Kim asked his parents what the word "confidential"
meant. He was kiddingly told to look it up in the dictionary
and he did just that. He somehow knew how to use the alphabetical
order to locate the word and then proceeded to read, phonetically,
the word's definition (Since that time Kim has read, and can
recall, some 7600 books). Kim did not walk until age four.
At that time he was also obsessed with numbers and arithmetic,
reading telephone directories and adding columns of telephone
numbers. He enjoyed totaling the numbers on automobile license
plates as well. Since 1969 Kim has worked at a day workshop
for adults with disabilities. Without the aid of calculators
or adding machines, he has prepared information from work
sheets for payroll checks. He takes extended leaves from his
work now so he and his father can spend all the time that
they do together as emissaries for people with disabilities
in community settings across the nation.
In that way life has changed dramatically for Kim since the
movie which he inspired became so popular and well accepted.
Following that movie, Kim, according to his father, developed
a new found confidence to meet people and to address audiences.
Prior to the movie, his father reports, Kim seldom looked into
the face of another person. However, due to the numerous requests
for appearances, Kim now travels across the country with his
father. They estimate they have interacted with over 900,000
persons in those audiences thus far. As a result of these interactions
Kim has grown considerably socially and developed increasing
self-esteem. In the feedback received, many have commented on
Kim's positive influence on children and parents toward creating
better awareness, recognition and respect for people who are
'different'. His father quotes Kim as saying: "Recognizing and
respecting differences in others, and treating everyone like
you want them to treat you, will help make our world a better
place for everyone. Care... be your best. You don't have to
be handicapped to be different. Everyone is different!"
Kim Peek and his father Fran getting
a ride in the classic car from the movie Rain Man.
There have been numerous television programs about Kim including
20/20, Good Morning America and others. Kim and his father
continue to travel throughout the United States and Canada
with the mission and purpose to inform persons about savant
syndrome, and to share Kim's message of inspiration. Barry
Morrow, describes it thus: "I don't think anybody could spend
five minutes with Kim and not come away with a slightly altered
view of themselves, the world, and our potential as human
The book that tells this story is much more detail is The
Real Rain Man by Fran Peek; Harkness Publishing Consultants,
Salt Lake City, Utah, 1996.
Kim Peek with Barry Morrow, screenwriter for Rain Man, holding one of the Oscar's awarded for the film.
Kim is in the actual Buick car used in the movie
Kim being readied for MRI scans
Kim and Fran Peek with Dr. Treffert
Kim Peek: His travels and his documentaries
Kim and his father, Fran, continue to criss-cross
the continent, and the world, to share Kim's story,
skills and message with a national and international
audience. Global television satellite broadcasts
allow them to be seen in a number of different
countries, such as Okinawa, or Belgium, for example,
now without even having to travel there. They
have also traveled to the U.K. and Germany within
the past year for some 'live' appearances there.
The audiences total well over 2 million persons
now for just these in-person appearances. The
message is an inspirational one both with respect
to Kim's extraordinary abilities, as well as the
touching portrait of a father and son who, as
Kim describes it, "share the same shadow".
There are two hour long documentaries now on Kim
in addition to the numerous shorter programs he
has participated in. Focus Productions in the
U.K. has produced "The Real Rain Man"
which is being aired on the Discovery Science
Channel in the U.S. Swedish television has aired
an hour long program titled "Mot Kim Peek:Verklighetens
Rainmanden manskliga datorn" which
gives a special insight into the relationship
between father and son.
In addition to these hour long documentaries,
Colourfield Productions in Germany included considerable
footage of Kim Peek in its Beautiful Minds three
hour documentary on memory, creativity and the
male:female brain. That program is scheduled to
be seen on the National Geographic Channel in
the U.S. and has aired already in other countries
including Ireland and Australia.
Kim Peek and Daniel Tammet, two memory giants,
are filmed together in an interesting sequence
in Brainman, the story of Daniel Tammet,
again a Focus Productions hour-long documentary.
Click here to view a
short segment from Brainman.
Some brief clips from Focus Productions and Colourfield
of Kim are available at the top of this page.
More will be added as they become available.
|Update: June 20,
Scientific American gets "Inside
the Mind of a Savant"
The June/July 2006 issue of Scientific American
MIND contains an article on Kim
Peek called "Inside the Mind of a Savant."
The article, by Darold A. Treffert, MD and Daniel
D. Christensen, is prefaced by these words: "Kim
Peek the inspiration for Rain Man
possesses one of the most extraordinary memories
every recorded. Until we can explain his abilities,
we cannot pretend to understand human cognition."
Update: April 5, 2006
Kim Peek's Expanding Abilities and European
Kim Peek stands
in front of an image of his brain. Photo courtesy
Scientific American and Ethan Hill, photographer.
Kim Peek's travels and media appearances are expanding
as rapidly as his already extraordinary mind and memory
are expanding as well.
Kim and his father Fran took their first trip abroad
to England in January, 2006 for filming some parts of
"The Real Rainman" by Focus productions. That
program has already aired on Channel 5 in London and
will be aired on Discovery Channel in the U.S. soon.
On that trip Kim made an appearance at the Oxford Union
Debating Society demonstrating his remarkable grasp
of U. K. history, and other topics. In March, 2006 Kim
and Fran flew to Germany where they were guests on the
very popular "Kerner" show one evening. Colourfield
Productions of Dortmund, Germany had previously included
Kim, along with some other prodigious savants, in their
"Beautiful Minds: Journey into the Brain"
program which has already aired in Germany and France
and is described elsewhere
on this site.
The December, 2005 issue of Scientific American
has an article devoted to Kim Peek titled "Inside
the Mind of a Savant", by Dr. Dan Christensen of
the University of Utah Medical school, and myself. That
article will also be included in an upcoming issue of
MIND, another publication of Scientific American.
Interviewers and film crews from Sweden, Germany and
a number of other countries, have visited with and/or
filmed Kim and Fran. I had a chance to spend several
days with them in Milwaukee, Wisconsin for filming a
portion of "The Real Rain Man". Portions of
that film were also produced in California where some
special imaging studies were carried out at the University
of California-San Francisco including MRI, Diffusion
Tensor Imaging (DTI), and Fiber-tracking (DTT). Dr.
Christensen had also carried out some earlier MRI studies
on Kim. Some of those MRI images on Kim are included
in the Scientific American article.
I mentioned Kim's mind and memory are expanding as
well. Some of the savant mnemonists of the past
and there have been only several had massive
stores of information, but generally within much more
narrow realms than Kim's 15 areas of expertise. Those
other savant mnemonists also generally lacked comprehension
of the vast store of memorized data. Kim shows not only
increasing comprehension of what he has so extraordinarily
put on his mind's hard drive, he demonstrates as well
an increasing quick wit, humor and ability to make puns,
the latter being very clever and sometimes taking a
fair amount of time for those around Kim (including
me) to catch the connection. But the connection, on
pondering, is always there. And, of course, then there
is Kim's newfound musical performance ability which
is surprising and astonishing as described in some prior
updates on this site.
For me, the transition that Kim Peek shows now from
memorization, to word 'improvisation'
to creation of puns and wit is the same transition
seen in some prodigious musical savants first
memorization, then improvisation, then creation and
Kim's ability as a memory-smith, and now word-smith,
is, however, in my experience very impressive, and very
unique. And the capacity of his 'hard drive' seems inexhaustible.
Update: September 26, 2005
Kim Peek "The Real Rain Man"
Continues to Astound
Kim Peek continues to reach new heights and provide
new surprises. Fran Peek, Kim's father, indicates that
as of the present time Kim's message of diversity and
inclusion has reached 2.6 million persons over travels
of over 1.1 million miles since the movie Rain Man,
inspired by Kim's incredible abilities. Kim continues
to make a number of national presentations, but he and
his Dad also make many local presentations to detention
centers, nursing homes, schools and other places where
Kim's message about accepting diversity and differentness
is always well received along with the inspiring impact
that Kim's remarkable abilities themselves leave on
all his audiences.
Another height NASA is now studying Kim, hoping
to use of MRI and CT scans to create a three dimensional
model of Kim's unique brain structure with the purpose
of better understanding him and his remarkable abilities.
Those new imaging studies are being carried out at Salinas
Valley Memorial Hospital in Salinas, California at a
joint project with NASA. Salinas Hospital and Richard
Green, photographer, have provided the pictures of Fran
and Kim on this page. A November, 2004 story tells
more about this project.
A new talent has, quite surprisingly, emerged in Kim
more recently. He has long had a massive store of musical
knowledge about specific compositions, composers, date
of first performances, subsequent derivations of more
modern pieces from original compositions etc. But through
recent contacts with a music professor and teacher,
Kim has not only continued to demonstrate, and even
add to, his vast fund of knowledge about music, but
he has begun to play music as well. He has also shown
a remarkable understanding of the organization, content,
style and 'rules of music' itself beyond the huge musical
fact database long evident with Kim. The extent of this
newly emerged musical skill, combined with the massive
musical memory, remains to be fully fathomed, and that
exploration is underway.
In the 2005 documentary Brainman, there is an
interesting interaction between Daniel Tammet and Kim
Peek, two present day memory giants, which sheds light
on how their massive memories share some similarities,
yet also differ, pointing up the complexity of 'memory'
as we know it. Yet unless and until any model of memory
function can fully incorporate and account for these
two incredible memory capacities and abilities, it remains
an incomplete model. Those explorations are also underway.
More information about Kim and the movie Rain Man appear
elsewhere on this site in a posting titled Rain
Man/The Movie and Rain Man/Real Life.
For more information, please contact:
Darold A. Treffert, M.D.
St. Agnes Hospital, Fond du Lac, Wisconsin
Clinical Professor, Department of Psychiatry
University of Wisconsin Medical School, Madison
Personal Web site: http://www.daroldtreffert.com