Top 10 Youngest People to Earn Their Doctorates

Hello again readers of! The school year approaches rapidly for most so we thought we would produce another list that is a tad on the lighter side of things. While it’s still hot outside, we are all thinking of syllabuses, the coming fall and the turning of the leaves, and research, lots of research. The following 10 people we have listed here are 10 of the youngest PhD’s in history. They range from ages 20-13 and some were speaking various languages, reading, and doing math while we were outside playing tag. Their specialties range from medicine to mathematics to literature. Of course, we include our typical information on the universities they attended. However, the ranking is based on their ages when they attained their PhD and not on university rankings.

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10. Akshay Venkatesh – Age 20

Venkatesh is an Australian born mathematician who graduated from secondary school at the age of 13. At the age of 11, he won a bronze medal in the International Physics Olympiad in Virginia. After gaining this achievement, he decided to switch his focus to math and won two more Olympiad metals in the field of Mathematics. He immediately matriculated at the University of Western Australia as the youngest student ever to enter the university. He is the youngest student every to gain first class honors in pure mathematics in 1997.

In 1998, Venkatesh began his PhD at Princeton University. His supervisor was Peter Sarnak and he completed the degree in 2002 at the age of 20. Venkatesh’s research interests are in counting, equidistribution problems in automorphic forms and number theory. Following his PhD, Venkatesh held a post-doctoral position at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Venkatesh went to one of the top universities in the United States for his PhD. Princeton University is ranked #1 among national universities by U.S. News and World Reports and #11 internationally by QS Top Universities. Undergraduate tuition and fees is $43,450 per year. Although an undergraduate degree at Princeton is pricey, it was one of the first institutions in the U.S. to offer a “no loan” policy to needy students, offering grants to them instead. The department of mathematics is ranked #1 in the nation, tied with Massachusetts Institution of Technology, by U.S. News and World Report. Further, U.S. News ranks Princeton’s work in number Theory at #2, which is one of Venkatesh’s specialties. The student body is made up of 66% undergraduates and 34% graduate students with 65% of the post graduates and 35% of the undergrads being international students.

At the ripe age of 20 in 2002, Venkatesh already had a storied academic career. Since 2008, Venkatesh has been a professor of mathematics at Stanford University.

9. Erik Demaine – Age 20

Demaine was a child prodigy who spent much of his younger years travelling around North America and being homeschooled by his artist father Martin L. Demaine and his mother Judy Anderson. He is Canadian born and hails from Halifax, Nova Scotia. When he turned 14, he completed his undergraduate degree at Dalhousie University in Canada. By the time he was 20 years old, he had finished his PhD at the University of Waterloo in 2001. He was awarded the NSERC Doctoral Prize for his dissertation along with the Canadian General’s Gold medal from his university. His specialties are in the areas of Theory and Algorithms. His dissertation was a seminal work in the area of computational origami entitled Folding and Unfolding.

While the University of Waterloo is ranked #152 worldwide by QS Top University Rankings, its Computer Science department is ranked at #26 worldwide. Waterloo is a central hub of technology in Canada and is an apt place for a young Canadian genius to study Computers and Mathematics in the country. The university offers 190 doctoral and master’s degrees including in the fields of languages, mechanical engineering, pharmacy, mathematics, economics, civil engineering, and nanotechnology. Undergraduates make up 86% of the student population while 14% of the student population is graduate students. 28% of the graduate student population are international students.

In 2001, Demaine became the Massachusetts Institute and Technology’s youngest professor ever at the age of 20. Not only had he worked on computational origami, but he has also decoded an ancient Incan language and has worked on protein folding which interacts with the field of biology.

8. Charles Homer Haskins – Age 19

Haskins was an advisor to President Woodrow Wilson and was a historian of the middle ages. As a child, he became fluent in Latin and Greek. At the age of 16, Haskins graduated from Johns Hopkins University. He then studied in Paris and Berlin before returning to earn his PhD at Johns Hopkins University and finished at the age of 19 in 1890.

Johns Hopkins University has been ranked by Online PhD Programs at #1 for their online Doctor of Education degree. U.S. News and World Report ranks Johns Hopkins at #1 for being the best school in the field of education. U.S. News ranks Johns Hopkins at #10 overall among national universities while QS Top Universities ranks Johns Hopkins at #16 worldwide. The majority of students, 63%, are postgraduates making Johns Hopkins a hub of research and innovation. Of those 63% of postgraduates, 82% of them are international students making the student population among graduate students quite diverse. Haskins, of course, arrived at the university not long after it was founded in 1876, and, since then, the university has transformed itself into a powerhouse in the sciences and medicine.

In the same year he graduated with his PhD, Haskins taught at University of Wisconsin and in 1902 was appointed professor of history in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at Harvard. During his tenure at Harvard, he established what would become the standard for training graduate students in the field at Harvard. He was the first medieval historian in the U.S and his work concentrated on Norman institutions and the transmission of Greco-Arabic learning to the western world. He was only one of three advisors that President Wilson brought to the Paris Peace Conference of 1919 where the Treaty of Versailles was created.

7. Juliet Beni – Age 19

At age 19, Beni completed her PhD in Psychology from University of California, Riverside. She is the daughter of UC Riverside engineering professors Susan Hackwood and Gerardo Beni. When Beni was 15 years old, she graduated with her Bachelors in Psychology. As a child, she and her sister went to Montessori preschool and then were homeschooled by both parents. Community college courses provided for Beni’s move into a four-year degree plan. During her time as a PhD student at UC Riverside, Beni was an instructor in Psychology for large health Psychology classes.

University of California, Riverside is part of the large network of world renowned states schools in the California University system. Founded in 1954, UC Riverside is ranked by U.S. News and World Report at #121 among national universities and #58 among top public schools. QS Top Universities ranks UC Riverside at #265 among universities worldwide. Like many of the universities in the University of California system, Riverside serves primarily undergraduates with the population of undergraduate students making up 88% of the school. Further, the student body at UCR is the most diverse body of students in the University of California system. Time magazine has ranked UC Riverside as one of the top universities to have success with low income students in the nation.

While Beni has completed her Phd in Psychology, She is currently a student in University of California, Irvine’s Haider program in Biomedical Science and hopes eventually to pursue her Medical Doctorate at UCLA. Her lifelong goal is to be a medical doctor. She is the youngest student to ever graduate with a PhD in the history of University of California, Irvine.

6. Sho Yano – Age 18

Yano is the son of Katsura Yano from Japan and Kyung Yano from South Korea. He was born in Portland, Oregon and is currently a physician. He was a child prodigy and was apparently reading at the age of two, playing classical music at the age of three, and composing music at the age of five. At the age of eight, he scored 1500 on the SAT, which, at the time, had a total score of 1600.

Yano entered college at the age of 9. He attended Loyola University, Chicago and graduated summa cum laude in three years. When he was 12 years old, he entered University of Chicago’s Pritzker School of Medicine. In this program, students earn both a doctorate and a medical degree simultaneously. He did his residency in the area of pediatric neurology. His PhD is in molecular genetics and cell biology, which was completed after his first year of medical school in the program. By the time he was 18, he was in his second year of medical school and was interacting with patients as a PhD on his way to becoming an MD.

University of Chicago sits in good company with Columbia University and Stanford University since all three are tied at #4 in the U.S. New and World Report Rankings for best school in the nation. QS Top Universities ranks University of Chicago at an impressive #10 in the world. The university is clearly built for research with a majority, 59%, of its student population doing post-graduate work. U.S. News ranks University of Chicago’s medical research at #11 in the nation, tied with New York University and University of Michigan – Ann Arbor, #14 in Biological Sciences, and #12 in Chemistry.

Yano is currently continuing his pediatric neurology residency at the University of Chicago.

5. Norbert Wiener – Age 17

Wiener was a child prodigy that excelled in the area of Mathematics. He was homeschooled by his father Leo Wiener for most of his of pre-college education. At the age of 11, he graduated from Ayer High School and entered Tufts College. In 1909, Wiener graduated with his degree in Mathematics from Tufts.

In 1909, Wiener went to Harvard University to begin graduate work in the field of Zoology. Apparently, his experience at Harvard in the Zoology department did not go well so he transferred to the department of Philosophy. However, in 1910, he won a scholarship to Cornell University and transferred, studying both philosophy and mathematics at the graduate level. He ended up having a difficult time at Cornell and he returned to Harvard to continue his studies in Philosophy. While at Harvard, he went abroad and studied in Göttingen and Cambridge in the field of Mathematics. In 1912, at the age of 17, Wiener earned his doctorate in mathematics at Harvard University writing on mathematical logic.

After the completion of his doctorate, he worked as a professor at Harvard in Philosophy, worked for General Electric Company, wrote for Encyclopedia Americana in Albany, and eventually worked for the war effort on ballistics at the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland. After WWI was over, he became a professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Harvard University, where Wiener obtained his doctorate, is ranked by U.S. News and World Report at #2 in the nation. Of course, Harvard is a global powerhouse in academics. QS Top Universities ranks Harvard University at #2 globally. Harvard is also the oldest institution of higher learning in the U.S. and was founded 140 years before the Declaration of Independence was signed. By the time Wiener showed up at Harvard, the institution was almost 300 years old. 68% of the student body are postgraduate students making the institution research centered.

4. Ruth Lawrence – Age 17

Lawrence grew up in Brighton, England and was a child prodigy, excelling in the field of Mathematics. When Lawrence turned 5, her father quit working as a computer consultant and homeschooled her. At the age of 9, Lawrence gained an O-level in mathematics (O-levels were a general certificate of education in a subject in the British system) which set the record at the time. She also gained an A-level in mathematics (A-levels were advanced general certificates of education in a subject in the British system) at the age of 9.

In 1981, Lawrence passed the University of Oxford entrance exam in mathematics, placing first among 530 students taking the exam, and she joined St. Hugh’s College in 1983 at the age of 12. She completed her degree in two years and graduated at the age of 13. She became the youngest person in Britain to gain a first class education and the youngest graduate of Oxford in modern times. After her first undergraduate degree, she purposed a second one in physics and finished in 1986. She completed her DPhil in mathematics at Oxford in 1989. Lawrence was 17 years old. Her thesis was entitled Homology Representations of Braid Groups.

The University of Oxford is another world renowned university represented in our list. At Online PhD Programs, we have ranked Oxford at #1 in our Top 10 International Distance Doctoral Programs. QS Top Universities ranks University of Oxford at #6 globally with the university being the #1 university in the world in the Arts and Humanities. It is the oldest university in the English speaking world. The university is made up of 39 self-governing colleges in a federal type system. There is no clear date of the foundation of the university but it appears that teaching was taking place at Oxford around 1096 and the organization of the university developed rapidly from 1167.

Lawrence has taught s both Harvard University and University of Michigan. She is currently teaching at the Einstein Institute of Mathematics at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

3. Balamurali Ambati – Age 17

As we move closer to our number 1 in the list, the feats of intellect begin to get more impressive and Ambati doesn’t disappoint. When Ambati was 4 years old, he was already doing calculus. Later, he attended Baltimore City College and graduated with his undergraduate degree at the age of 11. Also, when he was 11, he co-authored a research monograph on AIDS. His undergraduate work at New York University prepared him for his future profession. He completed a degree in Biology at the age of 13 in 1991. He went on to do work in medical training at SUNY – Buffalo and then received his Medical Doctorate from Mt. Sinai School of Medicine at the age of 17. He is the youngest medical doctor ever and is entered in the Guinness Book of World Records as such.

Ambati then went on to do residencies and internships at North Shore University Hospital, Beth Israel Medical Center, and Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary. He then proceeded in a fellowship in cornea and refractive surgery at Duke University Eye Center in 2002. He then received a PhD from the Medical College of Georgia. In 2008, he joined the faculty at the Moran Eye Center at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.

Since Ambait received his first doctorate from Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, we will look more closely at that institution rather than others here. U.S. News and World Report ranks Mt. Sinai at #21 among Medical Schools in the nation for research. Further, U.S. News ranks Mt. Sinai at #25 for best Medical Schools with a concentration in Primary Care. In terms of specialty programs, U.S. News ranks Mt. Sinai at #3 in Geriatrics. In terms of globally, U.S. News ranks Mt. Sinai at #159. QS Top Universities ranks Mt. Sinai’s Life Sciences and Medicine division at #163 globally.

2. Kim Ung-Yong – Age 15

Born in March of 1962, Ung-Yong was a child prodigy and is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records has having the highest IQ at 210. He was speaking at the age of 6 months and he understood algebra at the age of 8 months. By the time he was 2 years old, he was fluent in Japanese, Korean, German, and English. By the time he was three, he had mastered a number of other languages. In 1967, he appeared on Fuju TV in Japan and solved differential equations on live TV. Also during the show, he wrote poetry in English, Mandarin, Spanish, Vietnamese, Tagalog, Japanese, and Korean.

Ung-Yong was a guest student at Hanyang University in the subject of physics from the age of 3 to the age of 6. When he was 7, NASA invited him to come to the U.S. from South Korea. He eventually ended up at Colorado State University as a PhD student and finished his doctorate at the age of 15. In 1974, NASA hired him as a researcher and he did this for about four years. However, he felt he had spread himself too thin and decided to return to Korea in 1978 where he pursued a career in civil engineering. He eventually received his second doctorate in civil engineering in Korea.

In terms of Colorado State University, where Ung-Yong received his first doctorate, our very own site has ranked a few of the online PhD programs there in our Top 10 Online Doctoral Programs in Leadership 2016 at #1 and our Top 9 Online Doctoral Programs in Engineering 2016 at #7. U.S. News and World Report ranks Colorado State University at #127 nationally and #236 globally.

Ung-Yong served as adjunct faculty at Chungbuk National University and, in 2014, became an associate professor in Shinhan University.

1. Karl Witte – Age 13

Witte was born in July of 1800 and was the son of a pastor named Karl Heinrich Goffried Witte. His father encouraged a rigorous learning environment and program. By the time Witte was nine years old he could speak German, French, Italian, Latin, and Greek. When he was still very young, he attended the University of Giessen in German and graduated with his doctorate at the age of 13. He still holds the Guinness Book of World Records’ record for youngest doctorate and this distinction still stands.

Witte’s father wrote a book about his program of education called The Education of Karl Witte: Or, The Training of a Child. This book was highly criticized in German and fell out of favor. It was almost nonexistent in the country. However, the book became a huge hit in China and became a bestseller at the beginning of the 21st century. Millions of Chinese had hoped that their child would turn out to be just like Witte: A child prodigy.

The University of Giessen today is officially known as Justus-Liebig-University Giessen. The German system of higher education is very different from that of the one in the U.S. They do not have a tripartite system of BA/BS, MA, then PhD. Rather, German students go through a phase of advanced and junior studies for four semesters and then take an intermediate exam. Upon passing this exam, the student can then proceed to advanced and senior studies (6-8 semesters). This gives the student access to their first degree exams> The next level of study after that is the doctoral level.

Much of the rest of Witte’s life is clouded in mystery. It is said that he traveled through Italy in 1818 and had sought to become a lawyer at one point. However, he became known for and published on the works of Dante. His love of literature drew him to the epic poet and he spent his career as a Dante scholar.