Youngest Person to get a Ph.D.

8 of the Youngest People to get a Ph.D. in History

Ph.D. is awarded after years of extensive, successful research, followed by a thesis publication that significantly contributes to a specific field of study. Obtaining this prestigious title and degree requires intellect, commitment, and dedication.

A Ph.D., or Doctorate, is the highest level of degree that one can earn. A person typically requires 10 to 15 years after their first college admission to complete such a program successfully, and thus, few students go on to pursue a Ph.D.

That said, some intellectuals have managed to obtain their Ph.D. at extraordinarily young ages, and have greatly inspired other scholars. Below, we’ve listed eight of the youngest Ph.D. holders in history.

8. Erik Demaine

Date of Birth: February 28th 1981
Age obtained Ph.D.: 20 years
Field of specialty: Mathematics
Nationality: Canadian and American

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Erik Demaine’s educational path was pretty unconventional. His parents began his schooling at the age of seven. His father, an artist and sculptor, took Demaine on a cruise around North America when he was still a young child; thus, from the age of 9, Demaine began homeschooling.

Demaine developed an interest in computers, which led to an interest in mathematics. He joined Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, at the age of 12, and pursued and completed study for his Bachelor’s degree within two years.

The young pupil’s passion for mathematics led him to pursue his Ph.D., where he did his research in computational origami at the University of Waterloo. He graduated with his Ph.D. before celebrating his 21st birthday.

Did You Know?

Demaine joined the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) faculty in 2001 at 20 years of age, making him the university’s youngest-ever professor. He was elevated to full professorship in 2011.

7. Akshay Venkatesh

Date of Birth: 21st November 1981
Age obtained Ph.D.: 20 years
Field of specialty: Mathematics
Nationality: Australian

Akshay Venkateshphoto source:

Akshay Venkatesh was born in New Delhi, India in 1981, and grew up in Australia before settling in the United States.  

As a child prodigy, Venkatesh attended classes for gifted students as extracurricular in the state mathematical Olympiad program. He bagged a bronze medal at the age of 11, following completion of the 24th International Physics Olympiad in Williamsburg, Virginia.

 Akshay enrolled at the University of Western Australia at 13 years of age as the youngest student ever. He completed a 4-year degree program in three years, earning a first class in pure mathematics at 16. He won several prizes, including the J.A Woods Memorial Prize for the most outstanding graduate from the faculties of Science, Engineering, Dentistry, or Medical Science.

Did You Know?

Akshay Venkatesh is among the top ten intelligent people in the world. His accomplishments and solid standing in academia, physics, and mathematics prove that he is exceptionally intelligent.

6. Juliet Beni

Date of Birth: December 16, 1992
Age obtained Ph.D.: 19 years
Field of specialty: Psychology /Psychiatry
Nationality: American

Juliet Beniphoto source:

Most people start their freshman year of high school at the age of 15; for Juliet Beni, she was already a senior in college.

While not much is publicly available about the student’s early life and background, we do know that Beni furthered her education after she completed her Bachelor’s, going on to study for and earn a Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of California, Riverside (UCR) at 19.

This achievement was a historical feat at the University of California, as Beni was the youngest-ever student at the institution to hold a doctoral degree at her age. Linda Scott, a member of the graduate faculty, applauded Beni’s achievement, stating: “In my experience, we have had no one who even approaches that age.”

Did You Know?

Despite holding a Ph.D. in Psychology, Juliet Beni is currently a fourth-year general psychiatry resident at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

5. Sho Yano

Date of Birth: 1990
Age obtained Ph.D.: 18 years
Field of specialty: Medicine
Nationality: Korean and American

Sho Yanophoto source:

Most college student have found the SAT college entrance exam to be daunting, and studying for this test is not for the faint of heart. However, for Sho Yano, the SAT came easier than it does for most…and the kicker is that he took it the age of 9!

While he fell short of earning a score of 100% on the test, achieving a 1500 out of 1600 points, he was – unsurprisingly – still admitted to Loyola University Chicago, and graduated after three years at the age of 12.

Yano furthered his studies after completing his Bachelor’s, going on to earn a Ph.D. in Molecular Genetics and Cell Biology from the University of Chicago at 18 years old.

Did You Know?

Sho’s younger sister Sayuri (born 1996) is a gifted student and musician who earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from Roosevelt University in 2010.

4. Norbert Wiener

Date of Birth: November 26th 1894
Age obtained Ph.D.: 17 years
Field of specialty: Mathematics
Nationality: American

Norbert Wienerphoto source:

Norbert Wiener was a genius who studied during the early 1900s, obtaining a Ph.D. in Mathematical Logic from Harvard at the age of 17.

Wiener was a multi-dimensional intellectual with an interest in multiple fields. He pursued a Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics at Tufts College, and graduated at the age of 14 in 1909. Wiener then shifted his focus to zoology and philosophy, but ended up returning to his original passion: math.

Wiener adored solving challenges and learning new things. His expertise saw him assist in the automation of the anti-aircraft weaponry used in World War II. He eventually shifted to pursue cybernetics, and made grounding for the discipline that it is today.

Did You Know?

Because of poor eyesight, Wiener could not enlist in World War I. However, he was recruited into the army in 1918, and posted to Aberdeen Proving Ground as a “computer.”

3. Balamurali Ambati

Date of Birth: July 29th 1977
Age obtained Ph.D.: 17 years
Field of specialty: Ophthalmology
Nationality: Indian and American

Balamurali Ambatiphoto source:

Balamurali Ambati is currently a renowned seasoned ophthalmologist. He hails from an extremely intelligent family that knows something about perseverance – his mother is a mathematician and a Tamil linguist, and Ambati’s entire family immigrated to America in search of greater opportunity and outlets for their ventures. The result? A son who went on to achieve academic greatness.

Ambati’s academic journey has been an extraordinary one, as he completed his first Bachelor’s degree at the age of only 13 from New York University. When he was only four years old, he was solving calculus problems, and at age 11, he was co-authoring a research book on AIDS.

In 1995 at 17 years old, Ambati graduated from Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York.

Did You Know?

Balamurali Ambati is a Guinness World Record holder for becoming the world’s youngest medical doctor.

2. Kim Ung -Yong

Date of Birth: March 8th 1962
Age obtained Ph.D.: 15 years
Field of specialty: Engineering
Nationality: Korean and American

Kim Ung -Yongphoto source:

At three years of age, most children are happily playing with their toys, enjoying the perks of childhood. Yet, at the same age, Kim Ung-Yong was a guest student at a university. He also received an invitation to research with NASA at only eight years old.

Kim Ung-Yong was a child prodigy with a very high IQ. He could solve multiple calculus problems at age three, and went on to publish his essays in English and German with calligraphy illustrations.

Kim earned his Ph.D. in Civil Engineering from Chungbuk National University at 15 years old, and is currently a professor at Shinhan University.

Did You Know?

Kim Ung-Yong held the Guinness World Record for the highest IQ, which is 210.

1. Karl Witte

Date of Birth: July 1,1800
Age obtained Ph.D.: 13 years
Field of specialty: Dante Scholar
Nationality: German

Karl Wittephoto source:

Karl Witte is the youngest-ever Ph.D. holder.

Though his records remain scanty, we know that as a child, he was a test subject in his father’s experiments in 1800, and by the age of 9, he was already multilingual and fluent in five languages. He earned a Ph.D. from the University of Giessen at 13, and went on to become a Guinness World Record Holder.

Did You Know?

The Guinness Book of World Records classified Witte as the “youngest Ph.D.,” a distinction that holds to this day; however, The Guinness Book of World Records cites his age as 12 years old.

There is some confusion regarding exactly how old Witte was at the time he completed his doctoral degree; nevertheless, he remains the youngest Ph.D.-holder on our list.


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