Michael Kearney

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Michael K. Kearney
Born (1984-01-18) January 18, 1984 (age 32)
 United States, Honolulu, Hawaii
Nationality American
Occupation Improv comedian[1]
Known for Child prodigy, youngest person to ever graduate from college (age 10)

Michael Kevin Kearney (born January 18, 1984, in Honolulu, Hawaii, USA) is a former child prodigy known for setting several world records related to graduating at a young age, as well as teaching college while still a teenager. Additionally, as a game-show contestant, he has won over one million dollars.[2]

Early life[edit]

Michael was homeschooled[2] by his mother and father, especially his mother, a Japanese American.[3] He was diagnosed with ADHD, but his parents declined to use the offered prescription of Ritalin. His younger sister, Maeghan, is also a child prodigy[4] and graduated from college[5] at age sixteen. According to psychology professor Martha J. Morelock, Kearney was helped to adjust well to his surroundings by his parent's determination, and the take-on-the-world attitude they passed down to him.[5] As of 2006, Kearney's parents live in Alaska.[6]

Kearney spoke his first words at four months.[7] At the age of six months, he said to his pediatrician, "I have a left ear infection",[7] and he learned to read at the age of ten months.[7] When Michael was four, he was given multiple-choice diagnostic tests for the Johns Hopkins precocious math program; without having studied specifically for the exam, Michael achieved a perfect score.[8]

Kearney attended San Marin High School in Novato, California, for one year, graduating at the age of six in 1990.[2][9] In 1994, Kearney and his parents were on the The Tonight Show.[6][10]

College education[edit]

"Most people, they get into school when they're 6, and they get out of school around 22, 23.... I just happened to be in college that entire time." —Kearney, age ~22[6]

He enrolled at Santa Rosa Junior College in Sonoma County, California, graduating at age 8 with an Associate of Science in Geology.[9] In 1993, his family moved to Alabama,[11] and he is listed in the Guinness Book as the world's youngest university graduate at the age of ten, receiving a bachelor's degree in anthropology from the University of South Alabama in 1994.[2][3][5][9] Circa 1996, he was interviewed by Meredith Vieira on Turning Point (ABC News).[6][better source needed] As of 2014, Kearney remained the youngest person to have a high school and undergraduate degrees.[12]

Research and teaching[edit]

Kearney graduated from Middle Tennessee State University with a master's degree in biochemistry at the age of fourteen.[13] His 118-page thesis was entitled "Kinetic Isotope Effects of Thymidine Phosphorylase";[14] the research focused on the kinetics of a glycosyltransferase involved in nucleotide synthesis. At the time, Kearney was the world's youngest postgraduate (the master's degree record was since broken[when?] by Tathagat Avatar Tulsi).

In 1996, the family moved to Murfreesboro, Tennessee,[11] and Kearney attended Vanderbilt University, taking classes and, by age sixteen,[15] teaching as well (he was not yet legally able to drive).[2] Kearney received his second master's degree, this one from Vanderbilt University, at age seventeen[15] or eighteen,[13] in computer science. Kearney received his doctorate in chemistry at age 22,[15] having returned to Middle Tennessee State University as a teaching assistant (also in chemistry).[6][13]

Involvement with game shows[edit]

When young,[vague] Kearney attempted a career as a game-show host; he and his parents moved[when?] to Hollywood, to shoot a pilot episode, but the proposed game-show was not picked up.[2][6]

In October 2006, Kearney became a finalist on the trivia-and-puzzle game Gold Rush, winning $100,000 USD. In November 2006, in front of a national audience on Entertainment Tonight, he went on to win the grand prize of an additional $1 million USD.[13][16][17]

Kearney was a contestant on Who Wants to be a Millionaire? which aired on April 25 & 28, 2008, winning[15] twenty-five thousand dollars. He was also a contestant on Million Dollar Password which aired on June 14, 2009, but he did not pass the elimination round (losing the tiebreaker).

Awards and degrees[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Cast of the Nashville Improv Company". nashvilleimprov.com. 2015. Retrieved November 27, 2015. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f Kahn, Joseph P. (March 13, 2010). "Mindgames". boston.com. Retrieved November 2, 2015. 
  3. ^ a b c Kahlenberg, Richard (January 15, 1995). "The Smart Money Is on This Young Genius". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 2, 2015. 
  4. ^ Middle Tennessee State University, "The Record": "Veterinarian-to-be, age 9, set to receive her 'sheepskin' May 11", 2002 - Archived November 13, 2005, at the Wayback Machine.
  5. ^ a b c d Goode, Erica (March 12, 2002). "The uneasy fit of the precocious and the average". New York Times. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g "What Are Child Geniuses Like As Adults?". ABC News. 2005. 
  7. ^ a b c Kearney, K.J. and C.Y. (1998). Accidental Genius. Woodshed Press. ISBN 0-9628746-1-2.  p. 24
  8. ^ Heick, Terry (August 24, 2012). "The 10 youngest college students of all time". teachthought.com. 
  9. ^ a b c Burkdoll, Amy (August 8, 1998). "Latest accomplishment: 14-year-old genius gets his master's degree". Tuscaloosa News (AP). Retrieved 13 March 2011. 
  10. ^ The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Season 3, Episode 100 – June 7, 1994 at the Internet Movie Database
  11. ^ a b c Payne, Paul (August 11, 2003). "Whiz kid gets a lesson in life". Press Democrat. 
  12. ^ "15-year-old skips high school, attends UC Berkeley". AOL News. September 5, 2014. 
  13. ^ a b c d "Nashville resident wins AOL's Gold Rush". Nashville Business Journal. November 10, 2006. Retrieved November 2, 2015. 
  14. ^ under Professor Paul C. Kline, http://www.mtsu.edu/programs/forensic-science/#t-4
  15. ^ a b c d http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/04/02/child-prodigies-the-young_n_523514.html#slide=77149
  16. ^ http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1P3-1161101241.html
  17. ^ a b Rotstein, Gary (June 2, 2008). "The mayor of Muskogee is 19". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. 
  18. ^ "Michael Kearney – Holder of several Guinness world records". wonderfulinfo.net. December 22, 2014. 

External links[edit]