Youngest Ph.D.?

An article in The ASJA Monthly claimed that journalist Ruth Gruber, now 91, had at the age of 20 been the youngest person ever to receive a Ph.D. (Well, this page says Gruber got her Ph.D. at 19, but I’m more inclined to believe an article that was a direct interview with the woman.)

Googling around, I found that Stephen Wolfram, the creator of Mathematica among other geniusical things, also received his Ph.D. by the age of 20. So did software developer Adrian Scott. So did Hugh Latimer Dryden way back in 1919, before Gruber.

Are they still the record holders or are there any actual teenage hotshots that have taken the prize?

Or were there any even before Gruber? (And, yes, I know that standards for doctorates were different when you go truly far back into history. Let’s keep it to the modern definition of Ph.D., which would be roughly from the late 19th C. on.)

Norbert Weiner, the founder of cybernetics, received his Ph.D., from Harvard, at the age of 18.

Here is a cite and a short biography.

Sorry for the additional post, but the last cite/site shows his age at PhD as 19. This site, and others, say 18.

I can’t believe that 20 (or even 19) would be the record, since I’ve personally met an nine year old grad student. There are some pretty extreme prodigies out there.

What exactly are the requirements for a PHD? I would think that simple time constraints would make it difficult to achieve at too young an age. Unless there was some hanky-panky going on.

Guinness Book of World Records:

Well, I guess someone named KarlGauss should know the answer to this question. :slight_smile: Thanks.

Interstering that the person is so famous. Since the Gruber claim was originally made in the New York Times, you’d think that they could have found this information for themselves.

But it didn’t come up under Google, and another Google for “Norbert Weiner” youngest turned up no relevant hits.

Poor Weiner. So famous and yet so unknown.

Walloon, I set the bar late in the OP specifically to exclude weird early awards like Witte. But I wonder what he did when he was 13…

A quick search found doctoral requirements at the University of Houston. I would assume these to be fairly typical, or the OP would be meaningless.
I can see a student passing, or challenging, graduate studies, but I just don’t see how Walloon’s 12 year old would have the time or maturity to accomplish a PHD by such a young age. Even at 18 seems to me to be pushing it. I’ve known one prodigy, and seen (and read about) several on tv, and their knowledge is generally pretty focused.
I suspect at least a little rule bending.
Call me :dubious:

For completeness, Weiner thought he got his Ph.D. aged 18. The opening line of Ex-Prodigy: My Childhood and Youth (Simon and Shuster, 1953, p3) is:

It’s a fascinating and sad autobiography.

Have any of these people, these prodigies, turned out ok? As in happy and successful? All I’ve heard are the sad stories. :frowning:

Seamus Farrow, the son of Mia and Woody Allen, was reported to be applying to attend Columbia at age 11 a couple of years ago. He was already attending a liberal arts college. He travels with his mother as a UNICEF ambassador. In 2001 he was reported to be in his second year of studying genetics.

In the interview, Gruber appeared to be sane and happy and proud of a long life full of accomplishments, including 16 books.

Wolfram is a multi-millionaire who just published a book that he says revolutionizes science and has been getting respectful, if puzzled, reviews all over the globe.

Karl Gauss, who was an amazing prodigy himself, did pretty good with his life, too…

I don’t suppose any of them were complete happy, or lacked tragedies, but not all came to doom.

Well, good. One does have to be careful with that word “happy”.

I knew Harvey Friedman, who got his Ph.D. in math at 18, in 1967. He’s now a University Professor (in other words, a chair) at Ohio State. Perhaps he’s not the most pleasant person I ever met, but he seems to have had a fairly happy life.

Michael Kearney completed his Masters in chemistry at 14.

He was still studying after he did his MA but I don’t remember what it was. I completely and utterly disagree that the Kearney children were not pushed. It’s possible to meet the needs of kids without needing to go to the extremes of college at the age of 6.

I think many more of these kids come to grief than have happy lives. There’s a fairly strong correlation of profound giftedness and issues such as ADHD, bipolar, Aspergers and other joys. It’s rare for these kids to be only dealing with the implications of being academically advanced.

There’s a quite a few kids out there doing amazingly advanced work at university level who also have parents who have the basic common sense to impose a media blackout. Unlike Gregory Smith’s parents.

While I’m the one who described Ex-Prodigy as “sad”, that’s not on account of Weiner himself. At the very end of the book, which takes him up to age 31 (there’s a less memorable sequel I Am A Mathematician), he sums up as follows:

He managed to become an ex-prodigy. While his exact reputation can be argued over, he clearly went on to be a significant 20th century mathematician, though one with legendary personal eccentricities.
The sadness of the book derives to some extent from his father’s life: a Harvard professor of linguistics whose ideas never found favour and who felt a failure. But more from his portraits of the other prodigies he knew, particularly W.J. Sidis.

While we’ve never met, I do have friends in common with one ex-prodigy who had a place in a media spotlight instead of an ordinary adolescence. I’m told they’re utterly well-adjusted, but the father’s quite odd.