Michael Kearney

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Michael K. Kearney
Born (1984-01-18) January 18, 1984 (age 31)
Nationality American
Occupation Improv comedian
Known for Child prodigy, youngest person to ever graduate from college (age 10)
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]

Kearney 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 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, 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.[8] In 1993, his family moved to Alabama,[10] 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.[1][2][4][8] 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.[11]

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[when?] 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 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.[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 -[dead link]
  4. ^ a b c d Goode, Erica (March 12, 2002). "The uneasy fit of the precocious and the average". 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 the Internet Movie Database
  10. ^ a b c Payne, Paul (August 11, 2003). "Whiz kid gets a lesson in life". Press Democrat. 
  11. ^ "15-year-old skips high school, attends UC Berkeley". AOL News. September 5, 2014. 
  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. ^ http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1P3-1161101241.html
  16. ^ a b Rotstein, Gary (June 2, 2008). "The mayor of Muskogee is 19". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. 
  17. ^ "Michael Kearney – Holder of several Guinness world records". wonderfulinfo.net. December 22, 2014. 

External links[edit]