Monday, December 21, 2009

A Tribute to Kim Peek (1951-2009)

I would like to say a few words to pay tribute to Kim Peek, who passed away December 19th, at age 58. I was informed yesterday morning, but wanted to await Kim’s father Fran’s permission before making the news public.

For those who don’t know, Kim was the inspiration for Dustin Hoffman’s character in the Oscar-winning movie ‘Rain Man’.

I met Kim and his father Fran in July 2004, in Salt Lake City, Utah. Our time together was filmed for the documentary film “Brainman” (pun intended) and many viewers subsequently told me that this sequence was the highlight of the film. I also dedicated a chapter of my 2006 memoir “Born On A Blue Day” to our encounter.

Kim was a remarkable human being, blessed with astonishing mental gifts; he also battled numerous handicaps throughout his life. At the same time, he was funny, provocative, and down-to-earth. I remember fondly how he regaled me (and the documentary’s film crew) with all manner of facts and jokes, tunes and anecdotes. When I interviewed his father Fran, he was unsurprisingly extremely proud of his son, and vividly described Kim’s history and current life, which included much travel across the States with the important message that difference needn’t be a disability, because everyone’s different.

The memory I most treasure of Kim is of our mutual feelings of joy and excitement at finding someone who understood, in some small way, what it was like to think and feel and perceive the world very differently. We spent a long time swapping facts and figures with the kind of affection normally reserved for the gossip and reminiscences of old friends. And it really did feel as if we had known each other for years. There was a warm and wonderful ease and intimacy between us. I was and remain profoundly moved and inspired by the experience.

Meeting Kim and Fran helped me to learn much about what it means to be a savant, and a man. Kim faced his condition, its blessings and its burdens, with great courage, humour, and dignity. I must also pay homage to the tremendous and untiring dedication of Fran, on whom Kim depended and of whom he famously said: “We share the same shadow.”

Rest in Peace.

(If you would like to learn more about Kim's life and about Savant syndrome in general, please visit the excellent website by Dr. Darold Treffert, the world's leading expert on the condition:


Blogger maine character said...

Amen. I know from your interviews how much he's meant to you, and that's a fine tribute to a very gifted man.

7:22 PM  
Blogger Christian said...

Lost. But never forgotten! R.I.P Kim.

8:15 PM  
Blogger Brian said...

Rest in peace old friend. You will be remembered!

11:26 PM  
Blogger Dave said...

Those are beautiful thoughts and recollections about Kim Peek. Thank you Daniel.

2:21 AM  
Blogger Aquaryan said...

I met Kim and his dad at the NODCC Conference in Irvine, California. It was a memorable experience. The first thing that I heard was Kim's booming voice in the hallways. I look outside and see him chatting away with some people, while I was conversing with his dad. It was an interesting event when he spoke in front of the crowd of people.

I missed my last chance, when he had another visit @ the NODCC conference in New Jersey.

Rest in Peace, Kim! You were a truly an amazing person.

7:59 PM  
Anonymous Taco said...

Few years ago i saw some stuff about Kim, he truly is an amazing person not just his "talent" but also as humanbeing. His parents were told that he would not grow old, and he proved them wrong.

Much love & strenght wished to the parents, family and friend of this amazing Guy

also you Daniel, it's amazing to see what some people can do, just Wauw.


11:42 PM  
Anonymous Spongie said...

You said it perfectly, Daniel. Rest in peace, dear Kim.

11:58 PM  
Blogger ken said...

I was led here to your blog by way of reading about Kim's passing. That led me to search for him on google and then I found a link to you on Kim's wikipedia page.

I have seen the documentary with you both meeting; it was very entertaining.

When I was looking at your wikipedia page I came across the word *synaesthesia* and learned more about that...

Turns out I solved a mystery I had wondered about for a long time... why do I see time in spatial representation the way I do?

Thanks for being/getting the message out there and being you.

12:46 AM  
Blogger Dynamo said...

Daniel. I mourn for your loss and wish you all the best trough this difficult time. I know what it is like to aimfully drift through life experiencing it as an outsider then to finally find someone that thinks and operates on the same plane as you. I truly feel for what you may be experiencing at this time.

You have my most sincere support and I know that you will one day soon (if not already) be ‘as great as Kim was’. Your transparency is awesome Daniel and your character from what I see parallels if not exceeds even the greatest of all of your gifts. I wish you all the best my brother in Christ and let It be known that your journey is shared by many and you are never alone.

3:37 AM  
Anonymous Qazi Fazli Azeem said...

Rest in Peace, Mr Peek, you were among the first to spread awareness, and because of your efforts you will not be the last one of us.

Keep up the good work Mr Tammet.

5:29 AM  
Anonymous Soheil said...

I`m student of cognitive science in iricss.
I watched Brain man about you and kim.I`m so sorry for him
and thank you Daniel

3:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I havent seen the documentary and I didnt know about the man behind the movie.

However, the movie always fascinated me in the way that "rain man" shows us what the human brain can do. In the future we will probably be able to take a pill or have a procedure to gain those same skills of incredible memory capacity.

It always boggled my mind what kind of evolutionary mischief caused us to have such an amazing capacity, but then not give us the key to using it fully.

I want to recommend the ny times article on Kim Peek as well. It was respectful and balanced.



8:34 PM  
Blogger Peter Wilson said...

Well said (and written). Keep up the good work Daniel.

2:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this, Daniel. It was a wonderful experience seeing you and the Peeks together in the documentary and I'm glad you and Kim shared that connection. Your tribute here to Kim and Fran says it all.

7:57 PM  
Blogger erik.larsen said...

You both are very inspiring - I can kind of look around the corner - I am a bit different - but I can't Peek

And not even close to your mathematical abilities!

6:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been looking all over for this!


10:48 PM  
Blogger jobees said...

A beautiful tribute. Thank you, Daniel.

12:12 AM  
Blogger Laurie said...


I so remember the profound effect the documentary you spoke of moved me. I related so closely to you and your Asperger's and this was before I knew we shared the same condition.

Unlike you, I do not have savant abilities but I hope your humanity and compassion is something we share.

Reading your books has helped me to know myself, as meeting Kim did for you.

Deepest love to you.

10:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ein Savant hat ein schwieriges Leben, denn er wird oft mißverstanden. Manche Menschen lehnen Andersartigkeit ab, statt diese als eine Bereicherung zu empfinden für das Leben in unserer Gesellschaft.
Von Savanten können wir viel lernen über die Lernfähigkeit des Menschen, wie über seine Außergewöhnlichkeit. Der Savant ist für mich ein Zeichen Gottes, denn er bereichert uns mit seinen Fähigkeiten und sein Wissen.


7:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So sorry to hear about the passing of Kim Peek. I just finished reading "Born on a Blue Day" and I highly recommend it to everyone. Thank you Mr. Tammet for sharing your life with us. I am sorry to hear of the loss of your friend Kim Peek.

4:20 AM  
Blogger sleepygrrrl said...

You have a wonderful way with words especially for someone that has a difficult time with feelings. I have read about Kim and have seen the documentaries but it was nice to hear about him from someone who knew him. He was an incredible person and he will be missed by the people whose lives he has touched.

My niece was recently diagnosed with Asperger's and I found your book "Born on a Blue Day" fascinating. Synesthesia is very interesting to me but it is a difficult concept to grasp. Explaining the way that a mind works is like explaining a dream, very difficult. The way you could explain Synesthesia, to me, was more fascinating than the concept itself. You are a wonderful writer and an invaluable resource for everyone else.

I was wondering, though, if you knew of any resources for families of children with Asperger's. I know that your parents played a critical role in your development and they seemed to be very intuitive about how to help you learn and grow. If that doesn't come naturally to a parent, I was wondering if there was some way for them to learn how to teach dynamically and also to build confidence in the child so that they are motivated to go beyond their comfort zone. It seems so difficult for the child and it seems like it would be so easy for a parent to give up. I'd love to know where you and your parents got your inspiration.

5:42 PM  
Anonymous george said...

salut daniel! imi pare rau ca dau acest comentariu aici, dar am vazut pe un site ca vorbesti limba romana. Eu sunt din Romania, si sunt mandru de limba mea, si eram curios daca imi vei raspunde la comentariu. Dumnezeu sa-l odihneasca in pace pe prietenul tau!

9:54 PM  
Blogger Paulene Angela said...

Kim Peeks was one of those very special gifts from God, he gave this planet joy, love and other treasures for us to learn.

Thank you God
Thank you Kim Peek
and Thank you Daniel for this post

2:33 PM  
Blogger Gabriele said...

Kim Peek was a great person, I got sad when I knew about his death. You made him a beautiful tribute here.

10:40 PM  
Anonymous Alicia said...

Thank you, Daniel. Kim was a brilliant individual who will be greatly missed.

7:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hallo, Daniel!

I'm very sad that Kim died so soon.
He seemed such a joyous man, and, of course, he possessed astonishing cognitive capacities. What I would have done to catch a glimpse of his glimpse of his genius in person..

I wish his family lots of strength to cope with their loss, and you as well. :)

Vriendelijke groet,

your fellow synaesthete from the Netherlands.

7:08 PM  
Anonymous Jorge Carvalho said...

First of all I want to congratulate you Daniel for being such an awesome person. We know how much he meant to you, not only to you but also to the mankind. I´m totally sure he´s in a better place.
Kim will never be forgotten...we´ll always love you Mr. Kim Peek.
Mr. Fran, I´m thrilled by the affection you´ve always had towards your beloved son and I also love your memorable sentence: We´re the same shadow (I´m sorry for I may have written the sentence incorrectly).

Kim is in peace now...Rest in peace my beloved idol...We´ll always love you my friend!

1:12 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home