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The 10 Youngest People to Earn a PhD (1)

In 2015, there were a record 55,006 doctorate degrees awarded to students in the United States.  While that number continues to grow annually, it still only accounts for a fraction of the population.  Obtaining a Ph.D. is hard work it’s much if you graduated as the youngest PhD.  It requires years of additional schooling, rigorous research, and loads of time spent becoming an expert in your field.

Deciding whether to pursue high-level secondary education can be tricky, but sometimes a little motivation is all you need.  If you’re searching for a bit of inspiration, check out this list of the then youngest Ph.D. graduates.  Every individual on this list has an incredible story.

And either has or will go on to achieve impressive things in their respective careers as the youngest ph.d.

The Ultimate List of Youngest PhD Holders

Akshay Venkatesh

Earned Ph.D. at Age 20

Some people are born brilliant, and Indian-Australian Akshay Venkatesh is one of them.  At just 11 years old, he won a bronze medal. At the prestigious International Physics Olympiad. An international physics competition for children in grades 6-12.

Despite his brilliance in physics, Venkatesh switched his focus to mathematics and discovered his passion.  In the next two contests, he won two additional medals and graduated high school when he was 13 years old.

His next step was enrolling at the University of Western Australia and graduated in 1997 at 15 years old.  During his time there he obtained first class honors in Mathematics.

His passion for knowledge continued, and he was accepted to Princeton University.  He graduated from their Ph.D. program in 2002 with his doctorate the youngest phd. Has since become a respected scholar in his field.

He’s worked at MIT, been a Clay Research Fellow. In recent years has educated others as a professor at Stanford University.

Erik Demaine

Earned Ph.D. at Age 20

Canadian born Erik Demaine didn’t take a conventional road to his record speed schooling.  At age seven, his father took him out of the school system.  A sculptor and artist, his dad wanted to leave their native Nova Scotia to explore North America.  By age nine, Demaine was homeschooling himself and had an interest in computers and mathematics.

Despite having no academic records, test results, or transcripts. At age 12 Demaine was accepted to Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

The university was right in the talent they saw in him. And by the age of 14, he had obtained his bachelor’s degree from the institution.

He went on to achieve his Ph.D. from the University of Waterlo. And authored a thesis that paved the way for modern computational origami concepts.

In 2001 he became a professor at MIT, the youngest the prestigious university has ever had.

Today, his revolutionary work continues to focus on computational origami. protein folding, and decoding and translating a lost ancient Incan language.

Charles Homer Haskins

Earned Ph.D. at Age 19

Young doctorate graduates aren’t just a recent phenomenon.  Charles Homer Haskins received his Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University. In history when he was only 19 back in 1890.

He secured a teaching position at Johns Hopkins and then served as a professor at Wisconsin University.  He went on to a job at Harvard. And there he created a graduate studies program that they still utilize today.

Historians can thank Haskins for being the pioneer of the art.  He is widely regarded as the first medieval historian in the country.

Notably wrote The Renaissance of the Twelfth Century in 1927 on the subject.  He’s also well-respected for his work regarding the Norman Institutions.

Not just a professor, Haskins had a political role to play as well.  President Woodrow Wilson appointed him to a committee. Who helped to resolve territorial issues during the World War I era.

And Haskins also represented the US as part of the delegation who attended the Paris Peace Conference in 1919.

He was the speaker who presented a possible solution for how to manage the German state of Saarland, and his proposal was accepted.

Juliet Beni

Earned Ph.D. at Age 19

Academic success at a young age isn’t just limited to men.  In 2012, Juliet Beni graduated from the University of California, Riverside with her doctorate in psychology.   This made her the youngest Ph.D. graduate in UCR history.

The young prodigy has a passion for medicine and aspires to become a doctor.

Sho Yano

Earned Ph.D. at Age 18

The SATs are a stressful test for any college senior, but Sho Yano had nothing to worry about.

At only eight years old he scored 1500 (out of a possible 1600) on the test, and was admitted to university the following year.

Three years later, he graduated from Loyola University in Chicago at age 12.

And went on to earn his Ph.D. the youngest ph.d in Molecular Genetics and Cell Biology by age 18 from the University of Chicago.

He also earned his MD from the same school by age 21.

Which earned him the nickname the “real life Doogie Howser” after the favorite teen doctor television show in the early 1990’s.

Norbert Wiener

Earned Ph.D. at Age 17

Norbert Wiener graduated with his bachelor’s degree in 1909 when he was just 14 years old.  After attending Tufts College (today called Tufts University) and specializing in mathematics.

He didn’t immediately pursue the additional advanced education in the field.  He began studying zoology and philosophy before turning his attention to his original passion, math.

At 17, Wiener obtained his Ph.D. the youngest ph.d in Mathematical Logic from Harvard.

Always someone who loved challenges and learning. He then worked briefly as a journalist and helped to automate the anti-aircraft weaponry.  That is used during World War II.

Ultimately, he got into cybernetics and did pioneering work that paved the way for what the field has evolved into today.

Ruth Lawrence

Earned Ph.D. at Age 17

While most young girls were still playing with dolls. Ruth Lawrence was studying for her bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Oxford University.

In 1985 she obtained it when she was 13 years old. She went on to get a second bachelor’s in physics shortly after that.  At 17, she was awarded her Ph.D. the youngest phd in mathematics.

Her career began as a junior fellow at Harvard. She went on to become an associate professor at the University of Michigan.

Her journey ultimately leads her to Israel. Where she accepted a position as an associate professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Today, she’s recognized for work she’s done in the fields of knot theory and algebraic topology.

Balamurali Ambati

Earned Ph.D. at Age 17

While most people struggled through calculus in their late teens and early 20’s. Indian-American Balamurali Ambati was doing it when he was four.

An accomplished author and academic, he co-authored his first research book on the topic of AIDS at 11 years old.

At age 13 he earned his undergraduate degree from New York University.

The accomplished ophthalmologist went on to study at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City.

And graduated at age 17 making him the youngest doctor in the world.  You’ll find him in the Guinness Book of World Records as the youngest phD. recipient.

He went on to complete all of his necessary medical training. By the time he turned 24 and became the youngest practicing doctor to date.

Thanks to his expertise, he’s able to use his gifts to help a variety of people.  He is involved in research studies, and works internationally and overseas doing complex surgeries and medical procedures.

Kim Ung-Yong

Earned Ph.D. at Age 15

Another Guinness Book for World Record Holder, Kim Ung-Yong was a South Korean child prodigy.

Hosted as a guest student at a university at just three years old. Working as a research scientist for NASA at eight, he also holds the record for the “Highest IQ.”

He graduated with his Ph.D. at 15 years old. But despite that accomplishment, he wasn’t always happy in those early years.

Ung-Young cautions that academic success doesn’t always equate to achievement and success.

Today he is a professor at Chungbuk National University where he helps develop the potential in others.

Karl Witte

Earned Ph.D. at Age 13

The youngest Ph.D. recipient on our list also happens to be the oldest. If he were still living.

Karl Witte was born in 1800, and as a child was a test subject for one of his father’s experiments.

His father was an educational author who had a hypothesis. About how to teach children more effectively, and he tested his methods on his son.   It appears they were exceedingly effective.

At nine years old, Witte was able to speak five languages.  At 13, he earned a Doctorate of Philosophy from the University of Giessen.

This also secured him another Guinness World Record. It still holds true today as no one has achieved as much so young.

Although records are spotty on precisely what happened next.

People believe that Witte traveled to Italy in 1818 to further his education and become a lawyer.

Along the way, his love of literature took his journey down a different path.  He instead became a recognized scholar of the Italian poet, Dante.

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