Real-life ‘Rain Man’ dies at 58
Kim Peek, the man on whom the titular character of the popular 1988 film Rain Man was based, has died of a massive heart attack at the age of 58.
Peek was known as a “mega-savant,” diagnosed at the age of 9 months with severe mental retardation, but able by the age of 16 months to read and retain massive amounts of information. Peek’s father Fran said his son was born lacking a corpus callosum, connecting the right and left hemispheres of his brain. The condition left him able to retain up to 98% of the information he read, heard or saw, in contrast with the average rate of 45% retention.
Peek was well known for inspiring the character of Raymond in the movie Rain Man, a film that garnered four Oscars in 1989 for Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, Best Director, and Best Actor in a leading role. NPR described Peek’s unusual abilities in a post memorializing him:
He “had severe mental handicaps but reportedly remembered everything he read and heard. Peek had difficulty with simple things like turning on lights or dressing himself, but his memory was legendary. Give him a date and he’d describe its events. Name a place and he’d name the zip code. He reportedly memorized every word in 9,000 books.”