This is no episode of “Doogie Howser, M.D.”, nor is it a scene from one of those generic kid-genius movies; this is the real deal. We’ve long been aware of and marvelled at child prodigies in areas like music, math, acting, singing and science: When a new child genius emerges, people watch the child’s development with bated breath, expecting this latest prodigy to change the world with their incredible IQ.
There are a few teen geniuses currently in the early stages of a doctoral school such as Eugenie de Silva, who is just 15-years old. The politics student has become the United Kingdom’s youngest PhD candidate and has, unsurprisingly, encountered a significant degree of fame. She’s in good company, with American Tesca Fitzgerald who started her PhD studies at 16 at Georgia Tech where she studies cognitive science and human-robot interaction. Many like-minded people are more than double the age of these young women and have only begun to skim the surface of their research relative to what Fitzgerald and de Silva are accomplishing.
These two young women will soon join the ranks of the following select few incredibly young people who have earned their PhD’s, some of whom have even earned the ‘Dr.’ honorific before they’re even able to order an alcoholic drink, smoke a cigarette, or even vote.
10. Jason Levy – 20
Jason Levy, born 1972, made headlines in Ottawa in the eighties when he went straight into college after the fourth grade. He then hit the headlines again at the age of 14 when he earned his bachelors degree in mathematics from York University in Toronto. He continued his studies with a Master of Science and earned his PhD in mathematics and statistics from the University of Toronto at the young age of twenty. Since earning his PhD, he has held teaching positions at the University of Ottawa and an adjunct and assistant professor.
9. Akshay Venkatesh – 20
Akshay Venkatesh is a well-known mathematician who completed his PhD at the young age of 20 at the internationally renowned Princeton University. Venkatesh grew up in Perth, Australia and attracted the attention of the academic world after winning numerous awards in science and math competitions/Olympiads at the young age of 12. At the age of 13, he was off to college at the University of Western Australia. Just barely old enough to drive, Venkatesh went on to Princeton University in 1998, and earned his PhD in 2002 before he was old enough to order a drink in the United States.
8. Catherine Beni – 20
Catherine Beni is of an academic pedigree, as her parents are both engineering professors at the University of California – Riverside. On June 10th, 2011, at just 20 years old Beni became the youngest student to ever earn a PhD at the California Institute of Technology. Along with her sister Juliet she was homeschooled by her father.
7. Juliet Beni – 19
Just pipping her sister to the post is Juliet Beni. While her sister was focusing on math, Juliet set her sights on psychology at the University of California – Riverside, where her parents taught. Before she was even able to drive, Juliet was a senior in the UCR psychology department at 15. At the age of 19, she defended her PhD. But if you think she settled with her PhD, you’d be wrong. Julie is reportedly setting her sights on her M.D. from UCLA in the future so she can have her own practice.
6. Sho Yano – 18
Sho Yano is considered to be a child prodigy with a whopping IQ of 200. Before he was even in the age of double digits, he was a college student at the age of 9. At just 2 years old, he was reading. He was writing by the age of three, and was composing music at the age of five. His college career lasted for twelve years, and at the age of 18, he earned his PhD at the University of Chicago. But Yano didn’t stop there; he continued his studies and earned his M.D. at the age of 21 in 2012. He’s currently a practicing physician.
5. Alia Sabur – 18
Alia Sabur hit headlines when she made the Guinness Book of World Records as the youngest professor to hold a full-time faculty position at the University in Seoul, South Korea. Her age? 18. She was born on February 22nd, 1989. Sabur started college at the age of ten at Stony Brook University, and graduated at the age of fourteen summa cum laude. Sabur earned her PhD in 2007 from Drexel University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
4. Balamurali Ambati – 17
Balamurali Ambati is the world’s youngest person to graduate from medical school at the age of seventeen. He started his academic career by studying biology at the prestigious New York University (NYU). He earned his medical degree at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, but he didn’t stop there. Ambati spent his residency at Harvard University, and then completed his fellowship at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. He then attended the Medical College of Georgia where he earned his PhD in cell biology. Ambati currently resides in Salt Lake City, Utah, where he also runs his practice and works with the University of Utah.
3. Norbert Wiener – 17
Norbert Wiener’s look just screams eminent academic. This gentleman earned his bachelors degree in 1909 at the age of 14 in mathematics from the institution we now know as Tufts University. Wiener continued his studies at Harvard University and earned his PhD in mathematical logic at the young age of seventeen. After graduation, he conducted research during World War II, in the automation of anti-aircraft guns. After the war, Wiener held a position at MIT as a professor in mathematics.
2. Kim Ung-Yong – 15
Kim Ung-Yong is currently over fifty, but he was a child prodigy; his IQ was measured to be at 210, earning him a listing in the Guinness Book of World Records for the highest IQ in the world. From the time he was born, Ung-Yong displayed unbelievable intellectual abilities, reading multiple languages by the time he was two years old. By the time he was four he was solving pre-calculus problems. NASA invited him to conduct research when he was eight years old. By the time he was 15, he had completed his PhD in physics at Colorado State University. Currently, he is a civil engineer and an adjunct faculty member at Chungbuk National University in South Korea.
1. Karl Witte – 12
Karl Witte was born in 1800 is best known as a German scholar and jurist. There is conflicting information as to how old he was when he defended his PhD. The Guinness Book of World Records reported that he earned his Doctorate of Philosophy at the age of twelve from the University of Giessen, while others report that he was thirteen. Regardless of the age verification, earning a doctorate at the beginning of your teenage years is nothing short of impressive. His father wrote the book, The Education of Karl Witte: Or, The Training of the Child and became a bestseller in 21st century China, popular among parents who hoped to raise little Karl Wittes.