The college experience is for many a rite of passage into adulthood. There are some precocious students however, who make the transition well before they reach puberty. College courses can be tough enough as an adult, but imagine taking them as a 10-year-old!
You’ve likely heard of them – little geniuses who started reading and writing at an impossibly early age. Child prodigies who make the news and appear on talk shows as an awe-inspiring source of wonder and fascination. They often join the ranks of Mensa with their freakish IQs and perfect SAT scores. We see in them a bright future; they are the greatest hope for finding solutions to the scourges of civilization. They could be the next Einstein or Tesla who discovers the tremendous breakthroughs that forever change life as we know it. Their stellar intellectual gifts gain them access to the best colleges at an age where most of us are still learning basic arithmetic. They move up the academic ranks at an astonishing rate that leaves others gobsmacked while racking up a bounty of awards and accolades along the way.
These incredible individuals waste no time in their academic achievement and seem poised from the very beginning to accomplish great things in life.
15. Michael Kearney
Michael was born prematurely on January 18, 1984, in Honolulu, Hawaii. Doctors warned his parents that he may develop mentally slow but boy were they wrong. Michael was later diagnosed with ADHD but his parents declined to put him on Ritalin medication. Michael proved to be an extremely gifted child managing to set several world records such as the world’s youngest college graduate at the age of 10. For a while, he also held the record for the world’s youngest postgraduate, but his master’s degree record was broken by Tathagat Avatar Tulsi.
His parents realized their son was special when at 4 months old Michael began asking them questions like, “What’s for dinner?” At 8 months he started reading and became an avid fan of game shows such as The Price Is Right. His ambition early on was to become a TV game show host but later developed an interest in chemistry. At the age of 4 he achieved a perfect score on diagnostic math tests and was inducted into Mensa with a measured IQ of nearly 200. He enrolled in high school at the age of 5 and graduated a year later and began teaching college at the age of 17. In 2008, Kearney earned $25,000 on the television game show Who Wants to be a Millionaire?
14. Adragon De Mello
According to Adragon’s father, he spoke his first words at only 7 weeks old and by the age of 2 could both read and write. At 5 years old, he joined Mensa and by the time he was 8 he was enrolled at a community college.
Adragon gained national attention at the age of 11 when he graduated from the University of California breaking the record for youngest college graduate in 1989. He earned a degree in computational mathematics and was accepted into a graduate program at the Florida Institute of Technology.
Adragon’s achievements were somewhat undermined when it was reported that his father Augustin De Mello had been pushing his son excessively and reportedly threatened teachers to give Adragon passing grades in spite of his lagging performance. Augustin was later arrested on suspicion of felony child endangerment, and police found several guns and suitcases of ammunition in De Mello’s home. Augustin was forced to undergo psychiatric evaluation but was released 2 days later.
13. Jacob Barnett
Jacob was diagnosed with autism at the age of 2 and placed into a special needs school. The school failed to understand and provide for Jacob’s unique abilities however and his parents decided to homeschool him. By the age of 11 he was ready for college and began studying condensed matter physics at the Indiana University-Purdue University in Indianapolis. His IQ is reported to be 170 – higher than that of Albert Einstein. He has been working on his own theory of relativity and managed to impress professors at Princeton’s Institute for Advance Study. His work entails tackling some of the most confounding enigmas in astrophysics and theoretical physics and has put him in the running for a potential Nobel Prize win. Jacob gives lectures and has shared his story in numerous interviews including appearances on 60 Minutes and CBS. For a boy who doctors declared would never be able to tie his own shoes, Jacob has accomplished more than anyone dreamed he would.
12. Moshe Kai Cavalin
Moshe was born to Taiwanese and Brazilian parents. By the age of 7 he mastered trigonometry, earned his Associates degree and later graduated from community college at 11 years old. He went on to pursue a bachelor’s degree in mathematics at UCLA. He initially wanted to study astrophysics but later discovered his passion for cryptography and computer science. He was recruited by NASA where he works on drone and aircraft surveillance technology while working on earning his master’s in cybersecurity. In spite of his remarkable achievements, Moshe has maintained a modest and down-to-earth perspective and bristles at the suggestion of genius. “One word I don’t take too kindly is genius,” he says. “Genius is just kind of taking it too far.” His ultimate goal is to start his own cybersecurity company.
11. Gregory Smith
Gregory was born in 1990 and by the age of 2 he could recite books and solve math problems. He breezed through his elementary education in 1 year and graduated high school in a span of 2. At the age of 10, he enrolled at Randolph-Macon College and studied advanced level physics, French and calculus. Smith graduated with honors when he was 13 years old. He started a media frenzy in the late 90s after appearing on Oprah, The Late Show With David Letterman and 60 Minutes. He reportedly had an IQ so high, it couldn’t even be measured. Gregory has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize five times for his charity work in East Timor, Sao Paulo, Rwanda and Kenya. He is now a postdoctoral researcher at Mount Sinai where he studies stochastic gene expression.
10. Alia Sabur
Alia began to read at an impressive 8 months old. Her schooling started out normal as any other child her age but by 4th grade she gained recognition for her outstanding ability. She thereafter made the leap from primary school to Stony Brook University where she studied mathematics as an undergraduate at the tender age of 10 years old. Alia graduated summa cum laude and then enrolled at Drexel where she earned her PhD in materials science engineering. She’s won a myriad of awards from NASA, the Department of Defense, GAAN and NSF. She’s also an accomplished clarinetist, Tae kwon do black belt, and the holder of a Guinness World Record to boot. Just three days shy of her 19th birthday she became the world’s youngest professor at Konkuk University in Seoul, South Korea.
9. Akrit Jaswal
With a reported IQ of 146, Akrit began walking and talking by the time he was 10 months old. He started reading and writing by the age of 2 and could recite Shakespeare at 5 years old. He made a splash in the medical field after he successfully performed a surgical procedure at the age of 7 when he un-fused the fingers of an impoverished young burn victim. He was not a licensed doctor but was considered a medical genius as a result of the procedure. At age 12, Akrit studied for a science degree at Chandigarh College and became the youngest student ever accepted by an Indian University. He hopes to one day find a cure for cancer and has put forward promising ideas that could lead to the realization of that dream.
8. Colin Carlson
Born to a psychologist mother and a musician father, Colin Carlson became a child prodigy who was included in Business Insider’s 2011 list of the “16 of the Smartest Children in History” alongside Mozart, Picasso, and Bobby Fischer. He could read books at the age of 2 and began taking college course at UCONN when he was only 9 years old. He graduated from the University of Connecticut at the age of 15 obtaining his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in environmental studies and ecology. Along the way, he’s racked up a panoply of accolades and awards including the prestigious Harry S. Truman Scholarship and the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship. Colin has been in the news for suing the University after they denied him enrollment in an overseas course on grounds of his being too young. A clear case of age discrimination he says.
7. Tathagat Avatar Tulsi
Tathagat was born into a lower middle-class family in northern India. He was a wizard at numbers, juggling five-digit calculations in his head. His parents recognized his talents and he completed high school by the age of 9. In the late 1990s he rose to fame in India by obtaining a Bachelor’s degree from Patna University at the age of 10. At 12, Tathagat became the youngest in the world to complete his Master of Science degree. He went on to complete his PhD at the Indian Institute of Science at age 21 and became the youngest student in India to hold a doctorate. In 2003, Time magazine distinguished him as one of the seven most gifted youngsters in the world. He now teaches at IIT Bombay and works on research related to quantum search algorithms.
6. Kathleen Holtz
While other kids skipped class, Kathleen Holtz skipped grades. She only spent 3 weeks in the first grade before moving up to 2nd and she bypassed the 5th grade altogether. Holtz headed straight to college from there and studied as a part-time student at Cal State. At age 11 she enrolled there full-time and graduated magna cum laude with a degree in philosophy. She began law school at UCLA when she was 15 and caused a stir of mixed reactions from fellow students ranging from sweet to salty. She tried to keep her age a secret citing that she wanted people to get to know her as a person. She passed the California bar exam in 2007 and became the youngest practicing lawyer in California at the age of 18. Holtz won her first trial case where she represented the plaintiff in a commercial litigation matter.
5. Ruth Lawrence
Ruth Lawrence was home-schooled since the age of 5 under the tutelage of her domineering father in the field of mathematics. Her father received criticism for hot-housing his daughter, subjecting her to a rigorous education from an early age. She was only 10 years old in 1981 when she became the youngest person ever admitted to Oxford University and gained much attention in the British media. At Oxford, she completed her degree in the span of two years, graduating at age 13. She took up academic posts at Harvard and then at the University of Michigan in the city of Ann Arbor. She moved to Israel to work and later married and had children there. She now works as an expert in the obscure field of mathematical knots (a complicated branch of algebra), and teaches maths to young physicists as a professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
4. Sho Yano
With an IQ of 200, Sho Yano is among the brightest intellectuals in the world. Sho could read by the age of 2, write by the age of 3 and compose music by 5. At the age of 8, he scored a 1,500 out of 1,600 on the SAT. He graduated from the American School of Correspondence at age 9 and then entered Loyola University Chicago where he graduated summa cum laude at age 12. He then entered the Pritzker School of Medicine at the University of Chicago and was awarded a PhD in molecular genetics and cell biology there in 2009, at the age of 18. He entered his second year of medical school at the University of Chicago in 2009, becoming the youngest person to graduate with an MD from the University of Chicago at the age of 21. Sho became dubbed as a real life Doogie Howser. He is also an accomplished pianist with a black belt in tae kwon do and his younger sister Sayuri is a prodigious violinist.
3. Erik Demaine
Erik Demaine was a child prodigy hailing from Halifax, Nova Scotia. His father was a sculptor and when Erik was 7 he travelled North America with him. Erik was home schooled up until he entered college at the age of 12. Demaine studied at Dalhousie University in Canada, completed his bachelor’s degree at 14 years old, and completed his PhD at University of Waterloo when he was 20 years old. Demaine joined the MIT faculty in 2001 at age 20, reportedly making him the youngest professor in the history of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and was promoted to full professor in 2011. He worked as a professor of Computer Science at MIT where he uses math to model physical systems, particularly ones that fold. Demaine has published nearly 300 papers and won numerous honors including his 2003 MacArthur genius grant.
2. Kim Ung-Yong
Kim is a former child prodigy from South Korea who was speaking 4 languages and solving integral calculus problems at age the age of 4. According to his father, Kim could write poetry and had memorized about 2000 words in both English and German. He gained international attention by solving differential equations on a Fuji TV show in Japan. He was listed in the Guinness Book of World Records under “Highest IQ” with a score of 210. Kim became a guest student of physics at Hanyang University from the age of 3 until he was 6. At the age of 7 he was invited to the United States by NASA and even worked there before he could reach puberty. He attended college where he majored in civil engineering and by the age of 15 had earned a Ph.D in physics at Colorado State University.
1. Juliet Beni
Juliet Beni is the daughter of engineering professors Gerardo Beni and Susan Hackwood at the University of California, Riverside (UCR). She was home schooled along with her sister Catherine, who later graduated from the California Institute of Technology with a Ph.D. at the age of 20. While her sister focused on applied mathematics, Juliet concentrated on psychology. Juliet was a college senior in the UCR psychology department when she was only 15 and in 2012, she became the youngest person ever to graduate with a Ph.D. from UC Riverside at the age of 19. She has thereafter set her sights on obtaining her M.D. from UCLA in hopes of realizing her long held ambition of having her own practice. She credits hard work with her success remarking, “I knew how to study and how to learn.”