Michael Kearney

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For the shipbuilder and political figure in Newfoundland, see Michael Kearney (politician). For the United States Marine Corps private, see Michael Kearney (Medal of Honor).

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.[1]

Early life[edit]

He 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 age sixteen; as of 2006, Kearney's parents live in Alaska.[5] 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.[4]

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 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.[citation needed]

Kearney attended San Marin High School in Novato, California, for one year, graduating at the age of six in 1990.[1][7] Kearney and his parents were[when?] on the Tonight Show.[5]

College education[edit]

"Most people, they get into school when they're 6, and they get out of school around 22.... I just happened to be in college that entire time." —Kearney, age ~22[5]

He enrolled at Santa Rosa Junior College in Sonoma County, California, graduating at age 8 with an Associate of Science in Geology.[7] 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.[1][2][4][7] Circa 1996, he was interviewed by Meredith Vieira on Turning Point (ABC News).[5][better source needed] As of 2014, Kearney remained the youngest person to have a high school and undergraduate degrees.[8]

Research and teaching[edit]

Kearney graduated from Middle Tennessee State University with a master's degree in biochemistry at the age of fourteen.[9] His 118-page thesis was entitled "Kinetic Isotope Effects of Thymidine Phosphorylase";[10] 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).

Kearney next went to Vanderbilt University, taking classes and by age sixteen[11] 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[11] or eighteen,[9] in computer science. Kearney received his doctorate in chemistry at age 22,[11] having returned to Middle Tennessee State University as a teaching assistant (also in chemistry).[5][9]


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 one hundred thousand dollars. In November 2006, in front of a national audience on Entertainment Tonight, he went on to win the grand prize of an additional million dollars.[9][12]

Kearney was a contestant on Who Wants to be a Millionaire? which aired on April 25 & 28, 2008, winning[11] twenty-five thousand dollars. Kearney was also a contestant on Million Dollar Password which aired on June 14, 2009, but did not pass the elimination round (losing the tiebreaker).

See also[edit]


External links[edit]

  1. ^ Cite error: The named reference nyt2002 was invoked but never defined (see the help page).