Michael was home schooled 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 Huey H Miller III, 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.
He enrolled at Santa Rosa Junior College in Sonoma County, California, and graduated from high school at age 6, then studied at Santa Rosa Junior College, where he obtained an Associate of Science in Geology graduating at age 10. In 1993, his family moved to Alabama, Circa 1996, he was interviewed by Meredith Vieira on Turning Point (ABC News). As of 2019, Kearney remained the youngest person to have a high school diploma and undergraduate degrees.
At the age of 8 he enrolled at The University of South Alabama, where he received in 1994 a bachelor's degree in anthropology and is listed in the Guinness Book as the world's youngest university graduate at the age of ten. At the age of 14 he obtained a master's degree in chemistry at Middle Tennessee State University. At age 18 he obtained his master's degree in computer science at Vanderbilt University.
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).
In October 2006, Kearney became a finalist on the trivia-and-puzzle game Gold Rush, winning $100,000. 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.
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).
Awards and degrees
- High school diploma from San Marin High School, 1990 (age 6)
- Associate degree from Santa Rosa Junior College (age 8)
- Anthropology degree from University of South Alabama, 1994 (age 10)
- Guinness World Record for world's youngest college graduate (age 10)
- Master's degree in chemistry, Middle Tennessee State University (age 14)
- Master's degree in computer science, Vanderbilt University (age 18)
- Ph.D in Chemistry, Middle Tennessee University (age 22)
- Teaching Assistant
Fancy-shmancy just got easy-"pea"sy with our recipe for Chicken a la King in a Hurry! This comforting dinner recipe is said to have been created for a King, who loved it so much he put it on his hotel menu the very next day. Now your whole gang can enjoy having it on their menu!
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 8 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced
- 1 (10-3/4-ounce) can cream of chicken soup
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 cups chunked cooked chicken (about 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts)
- 1 cup frozen green peas, thawed
- 1 (2-ounce) jar diced pimientos, drained
***Serve over warm cooked egg noodles or buttermilk biscuits.