January 18, 1984 (age 37) (
Child prodigy, youngest person to ever graduate from college (age 10)
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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.
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- Early life
- College education
- Research and teaching
- Involvement with game shows
- Awards and degrees
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Michael was homeschooled by his mother and father, especially his mother, a Japanese American. 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 and graduated from college 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. As of 2006, Kearney's parents live in Alaska.
Kearney spoke his first words at four months. At the age of six months, he said to his pediatrician, "I have a left ear infection", and he learned to read at the age of ten months. 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.
"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
He enrolled at Santa Rosa Junior College in Sonoma County, California, graduating at age 8 with an Associate of Science in Geology. In 1993, his family moved to Alabama, 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. Circa 1996, he was interviewed by Meredith Vieira on Turning Point (ABC News). As of 2014, Kearney remained the youngest person to have a high school and undergraduate degrees.
Research and teaching
Kearney graduated from Middle Tennessee State University with a master's degree in biochemistry at the age of fourteen. His 118-page thesis was entitled "Kinetic Isotope Effects of Thymidine Phosphorylase"; 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, and Kearney attended Vanderbilt University, taking classes and, by age sixteen, teaching as well (he was not yet legally able to drive). Kearney received his second master's degree, this one from Vanderbilt University, at age seventeen or eighteen, in computer science. Kearney received his doctorate in chemistry at age 22, having returned to Middle Tennessee State University as a teaching assistant (also in chemistry).
Involvement with game shows
When young, Kearney attempted a career as a game-show host; he and his parents moved to Hollywood, to shoot a pilot episode, but the proposed game-show was not picked up.
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.
Kearney was a contestant on Who Wants to be a Millionaire? which aired on April 25 & 28, 2008, winning 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).