Michael Kearney

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Michael Kearney
Born (1984-01-18) January 18, 1984 (age 37)
Known forChild prodigy, youngest person ever to graduate from college (age 10 years)

Michael Kevin Kearney (born January 18, 1984) is an American college professor and game show contestant. He is known for setting several world records related to graduating at a young age, as well as teaching college students while still a teenager. Additionally, as a game-show contestant, he has won over one million dollars.[1]

Early life[edit]

Michael was homeschooled[1] by his mother and father, especially his mother, a Japanese American.[2] 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[3] and graduated from college[4] at the age of sixteen. According to psychology professor Huey H Miller III, 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.[4] As of 2006, Kearney's parents live in Alaska.[5]

Kearney spoke his first words at four months.[6] At the age of six months, he said to his pediatrician, "I have a left ear infection",[6] and he learned to read at the age of ten months.[6] 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.[7]

Kearney attended San Marin High School in Novato, California, for one year, graduating at the age of six in 1990.[1][8] In 1994, Kearney and his parents were on The Tonight Show.[5][9]

College education[edit]

"Most people 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[5]

Kearney graduated from high school at age 6 and went to Santa Rosa Junior College in Sonoma County, California, then studied at Santa Rosa Junior College, where he obtained an Associate of Science in Geology graduating at age 10.[8] In 1993, his family moved to Alabama.[10] Circa 1996, he was interviewed by Meredith Vieira on Turning Point (ABC News).[5][better source needed] As of 2019, Kearney remained the youngest person to have a high-school diploma and undergraduate degrees.[11]

At the age of 8 he enrolled at The University of South Alabama, where he received in 1994 a bachelor's degree in anthropology and is listed in the Guinness Book as the world's youngest university graduate at the age of ten.[1][2][4][8] At the age of 14 he obtained a master's degree in chemistry at Middle Tennessee State University. At age 18 he obtained his master's degree in computer science at Vanderbilt University.

Research and teaching[edit]

Kearney graduated from Middle Tennessee State University with a master's degree in biochemistry at the age of fourteen.[12] His 118-page thesis was entitled "Kinetic Isotope Effects of Thymidine Phosphorylase";[13] 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 in 1999 by Tathagat Avatar Tulsi).

In 1996, the family moved to Murfreesboro, Tennessee,[10] and Kearney attended Vanderbilt University, taking classes and, by age sixteen,[14] teaching as well (he was not yet legally able to drive).[1] Kearney received his second master's degree, this one from Vanderbilt University, at age seventeen[14] or eighteen,[12] in computer science. Kearney received his doctorate in chemistry at age 22,[14] having returned to Middle Tennessee State University as a teaching assistant (also in chemistry).[5][12]

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.[1][5]

In October 2006, Kearney became a finalist on the trivia-and-puzzle game Gold Rush, winning $100,000. 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.[12][15][16]

Kearney was a contestant on Who Wants to be a Millionaire? which aired on April 25 & 28, 2008, winning[14] 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. ^ a b c d e f Kahn, Joseph P. (March 13, 2010). "Mindgames". boston.com. Retrieved November 2, 2015.
  2. ^ a b c Kahlenberg, Richard (January 15, 1995). "The Smart Money Is on This Young Genius". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 2, 2015.
  3. ^ 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
  4. ^ a b c d Goode, Erica (March 12, 2002). "The uneasy fit of the precocious and the average". The New York Times.
  5. ^ a b c d e f "What Are Child Geniuses Like As Adults?". ABC News. 2005.
  6. ^ a b c Kearney, K.J. and C.Y. (1998). Accidental Genius. Woodshed Press. ISBN 0-9628746-1-2. p. 24
  7. ^ Heick, Terry (August 24, 2012). "The 10 youngest college students of all time". teachthought.com.
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Season 3, Episode 100 – June 7, 1994 at IMDb
  10. ^ a b c Payne, Paul (August 11, 2003). "Whiz kid gets a lesson in life". Press Democrat.
  11. ^ Sorto, Gabrielle; Staff, A. O. L. (11 December 2019). "9-year-old prodigy dropped out of college after learning he wouldn't graduate before he turned 10". AOL.com. Retrieved 13 December 2019.
  12. ^ a b c d "Nashville resident wins AOL's Gold Rush". Nashville Business Journal. November 10, 2006. Retrieved November 2, 2015.
  13. ^ under Professor Paul C. Kline, http://www.mtsu.edu/programs/forensic-science/#t-4
  14. ^ a b c d http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/04/02/child-prodigies-the-young_n_523514.html#slide=77149
  15. ^ a b Rotstein, Gary (June 2, 2008). "The mayor of Muskogee is 19". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
  16. ^ "Gold Rush winner close to being rocket scientist". Winnipeg Free Press. November 11, 2006. Archived from the original on April 17, 2016. Retrieved 6 July 2021.
  17. ^ "Michael Kearney – Holder of several Guinness world records". wonderfulinfo.net. December 22, 2014.

External links[edit]