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Grade Skipped and Successful

Collected by Carolyn K., director, Hoagies' Gifted Education Page

Also visit Notable Homeschoolers and 2e = Exceptional Squared!...

So many times, only the negative examples of grade acceleration are remembered. For those who prefer a more positive outlook, here's a list of individuals who skipped one or more grades, and are successful in their fields... from professionals athletes to scientists to presidents to actors and actresses to Nobel Prize winners, and many, many more.  There are far more positive examples than negative ones!

But there is no discernable pattern... grade skips occur in the U.S. and elsewhere, in early and late grades, in girls and boys.  The only common factor is that all these individuals are both grade skipped and successful!

Some of our most beloved fictional characters in literature and television, past and present, have also skipped grades!  Jump below to Fictional Grade Skipped Characters...

For more success stories, read Cradles of Eminence: Childhoods of More Than 700 Famous Men and Women by Victor Goertzel, Mildred Goertzel, Ted Goertzel, and Ariel Hansen .  The 1964 provocative classic by Victor and Mildred Goertzel is printed here in its entirely, plus updated for the 21st Century. Do prominent individuals share common childhood experiences? What factors in childhood contribute to a prolific adulthood? Among the fascinating similarities of these eminent personalities are that most:

bulletgrew up in homes with a strong love of learning;
bullethad strong, opinionated, pushy parents;
bulletgrew up feeling different from others.

For another perspective, visit Wikipedia's List of Child Prodigies.
 

Alan Alda, actor, screenwriter and producer
Alda started college at 16, after being partially homeschooled... in his autobiography Never Have Your Dog Stuffed: And Other Things I've Learned
 
Raven Alder, the first woman to deliver a technical presentation at the famed DefCon hacker conference, best known for tracing spoofed distributed denial of service attacks
"I skipped three grades and was taking college classes at 12, graduated high school at fourteen and college at eighteen," she said. "My parents very much encouraged my sister, brother and me to be academic achievers."
 
Judith Anderson, Oxford student
overcame HUGE childhood hardships, completed 3 years of high school in 2 years time, graduating at 16 - a Canadian to be watched
 
Ethel Andrus, founder of the AARP and the first female Principal of a California High School
graduated from college at the age of 19
 
Natalie Angier, Pulitzer prize-winning science writer
Skipped 2 grades...
 
Neil Armstrong, astronaut, first man to walk on the Moon
Skipped mid-year from second to third grade. As as a 2nd grader, he was reading at a 5th grade level, so they moved him to third!
 
Lauren Bacall, actress
Read more in By Myself and Then Some
 
Dr. Habeeb Bacchus, physician and professor
16-year-old freshman at Howard University, graduated from Howard in two years with a bachelor's degree in zoology.  He began graduate studies at George Washington in October 1947 and, by the following June, had a master's in zoology. He started on his doctorate in 1948 and, in 18 months, received a PhD in physiology. Only 21 at the time, Dr. Bacchus was the youngest person awarded a doctorate since GWU first granted the degree in 1888...
 
John Bardeen, physicist
2 time Nobel Laureate in Physics (multiple skips)
 
Joseph L. Bates, Chairman of the Board, Chief Scientist, Co-Founder, Zoesis digital arts studio
the very first person to be radically accelerated by Julian Stanley.  In 1969 as thirteen-year-old eight-grader, he got admitted to John Hopkins...
 
Elizabeth Berrien, World class wire sculptor
By kindergarten, Elizabeth was an avid reader. Her scores for spatial relationships and math were "off the scale;" later she skipped fourth grade...
 
Sidney Blumenthal, journalist and author
graduated from high school at 16, in The Clinton Wars
 
Paul D. Boyer, chemist
Nobel Laureate in Chemistry 1997 (with John E. Walker) for for their elucidation of the enzymatic mechanism underlying the synthesis of adenosine triphosphate (ATP)
 
General Omar Bradley
Finished high school at 16...
 
David Broder, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist
"Born Sept. 11, 1929, in Chicago Heights, Ill., where his father was a dentist, David Salzer Broder entered the University of Chicago at 15 and received bachelor's and master's degrees there."
 
Gordon Brown, Prime Minister of Great Britain
Entered University of Edinburgh at 16 (15 in some sources)
 
Robert Brown, Attorney, President of the Stanford University Board of Trustees
Skipped three grades...
 
Alice L. Bryan, psychologist; professor, Colombia University School of Library Service
A bright student who excelled in school, Alice skipped two grades and entered high school in 1914, at the age of 12. While maintaining top grades she served as secretary of her class and actively participated in the high school debating team and in the drama club as well as doing volunteer work for the Red Cross...
 
Warren Buffett, brilliant investor, world's first or second richest man, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway
Skipped once and graduated at 17.  Read more in Buffett: The Making of an American Capitalist
 
Ellen Burstyn, actress
Skipped once, as she describes it she clearly needed another skip but was denied it - "I lost interest in school and never regained it."  Read more in Lessons in Becoming Myself
 
Brett Butler, actress and author
in Knee Deep in Paradise
 
Colin Farrell Camerer, American behavioral economist and a professor at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech)
Over the ten years, he went through to a Ph.D. degree and an assistant professorship before his twenty-second birthday.  Yet despite his academic speed he found plenty of time for extracurricular activities: varsity wrestling and the television academic quiz team in high school, varsity golf in college, much writing for the college newspaper, and tutoring of several other mathematics prodigies... (details from Academic Precocity: Aspects of its Development, Stanley and Benbow, 1983)
 
Drew Carey, actor
graduated a year early from James Ford Rhodes High School
 
Robert L. Carter judge of the U. S. District Court for the Southern District of NY
Earlier, argued or co-argued 23 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, for the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, winning 22. Carter was a remarkable student, graduating from high school at sixteen having skipped two grades...
 
Chi-Bin Chien,  Associate Professor of Neurobiology and Anatomy
Chi-Bin became the youngest recipient of a baccalaureate in JHU's l05-year history.  He took his B.A. in physics with the following honors and awards: general and departmental honors, Donald E. Kerr Memorial Award for the outstanding bachelor's degree recipient in physics from Johns Hopkins, SMPY award for being the youngest graduate in JHU's history, Churchill Scholarship to study biophysics for a year at Cambridge University, and National Science Foundation three-year fellowship with which to work toward a Ph.D. degree at the California Institute of Technology... (details from Academic Precocity: Aspects of its Development, Stanley and Benbow, 1983)
 
Warren Christopher, former Secretary of State
in Chances of a Lifetime
 
John Ciardi, poet, translator, etymologist
Skipped fifth grade
 
Chelsea Clinton, daughter of president Bill Clinton
Skipped the third grade due to her reportedly high reading level...
 
Noam Chomsky, MIT professor, linguist and human rights activist
“It wasn’t until high school that I realized I was a good student. The question simply didn't come up. I knew I had skipped a grade, but what that mostly meant was that I was the smallest kid in class and had to buy the tickets when we used to sneak out and go downtown to the movies, as I was the only one who could still pass for ten or whatever age it was.”
 
Karl Taylor Compton prominent American physicist and president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) from 1930 to 1948
In 1902 Compton skipped a grade and went into Wooster University's preparatory department for the last two years of high school. In 1908 he graduated from Wooster cum laude with a bachelor of philosophy degree...
 
Rafael Corrales
Skipped two grades, lettered in 2 sports for all 4 years of high school, graduated high school at 16, started College Knowledge Tutoring at age 19, graduated summa cum laude from Georgia Tech at 20, accepted to and began Harvard Business School at 21...
 
Charlie Crawford, Canadian “ice cider” entrepreneur
Skipped two grades
 
Cameron Crowe, writer, director, producer
Skipped Kindergarten and two grades in elementary school, graduated high school at age 15, and began writing for Rolling Stone Magazine at age 15...
 
Madame Curie (Manva Sklodowski), scientist, winner of Nobel prizes in Physics in 1903, shared with her husband, and Chemistry in 1935
"How could she [Miss Tupalska, her teacher] not be proud of this brilliant pupil, two years younger than her classmates, who seemed to find nothing difficult and was invariably first in ciphering, first in history, first in literature, German, French and catechism?"
 
Pierre Curie, scientist, winner of Nobel prizes in Physics in 1903, shared with his wife and Becquerel
Twice accelerated, like his wife...
 
Patti (Reagan) Davis, presidential daughter,
"Patti was such a good student that, like her father, she skipped third grade. “She was smart, and musically talented, and one of the prettiest girls in our class.”" Read more in Ronnie and Nancy: Their Path to the White House--1911 to 1980
 
Dorothy Delay, Julliard professor and teacher to such violin luminaries as Itzhak Perlman, Midori, Sarah Chang
from her biography, Teaching Genius
 
Erik Demaine, assistant professor of computer science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the leading theoretician in the emerging field of origami mathematics
started college courses at 12, and received his doctorate at 20 and at the same age became the youngest professor ever at M.I.T. In 2003 he was granted a MacArthur "genius" fellowship...
 
Herb Deromedi, Football coach, inductee into the College Football Hall of Fame
Skipped 2 grades...
 
Michael Doleac professional basketball player
The same drive that Doleac has in the classroom -- he skipped sixth grade -- enabled him to mold that body, which through weight training now has just 6 percent fat, and become a prospective N.B.A. first-round pick.  He has stated that he wants to be a doctor once his NBA career is over...
 
W. E. B. DuBois, pioneering Pan-Africanist, first African American to receive a PhD from Harvard, and the only African American member of the original NAACP board of directors, and was the editor of the NAACP's magazine for 25 years
...grade-skipped and graduated from high school at 16 (page 26 of A Nation Deceived)
 
Tim Duncan, basketball player
NBA
 
Hugh L. Dryden, scientist
NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center is named for him
Dryden received his diploma from Baltimore City College (a high school, despite its name) at age 14, the youngest ever to graduate. Not merely the youngest, he ranked first in a class of 172, and won the Peabody Prize for excellence in mathematics. In spring of 1919, he received the Ph.D. degree in applied physics, at 20 the youngest person ever to earn a Johns Hopkins University doctorate.
 
Amelia Earhart, pilot
First woman to make a solo flight across the Atlantic, May 20-21, 1932. For this achievement she was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross by Vice-President Charles Curtis on July 29, 1932 (skipped twice)
 
Fred Ebb, Lyricist, with John Kander, wrote many musicals, including Cabaret, Chicago, Kiss of the Spiderwoman, and more...
Interviewer: "When did you get the bug, how did you get it, and did you think you were going to be working in the theater from the beginning? . . ."
Ebb: ". . . . I had considered that maybe writing lyrics was something I could do. I'd already gone to school as much as you can go to school, which was a delaying tactic so I wouldn't have to face life."
Interviewer: "It wasn't much of a delaying tactic. You had a master's degree [from Columbia U.] by the time you were eighteen, didn't you?"
Ebb: "Yes. Then there wasn't much else I could think of to do scholastically."
From interview with Fred Ebb and John Kander, in "The Art Of The American Musical: Conversations With The Creators ," edited by Jackson R. Bryer & Richard Allan Davison
 
Jonathan Middleton Edwards, chief technology officer-- "head nerd," he calls it--of a company he founded called Intranet
Julian Stanley's second radical acceleration:  Not the ideal academic path, but "Looking back on his teenage years, Edwards says he does not regret going to college at an early age. "Had I not been plucked out of junior high school, I think I would have become deeply angry and alienated and self-destructive. That is what happens to many very bright people."
 
Gertrude Belle "Trudy" Elion, pioneering women scientist
Entered college at 15...
 
T. S. Eliot, poet  and Nobel Laureate in Literature
...finished his undergraduate degree at Harvard in three years, his masters degree in one year (page 26 of A Nation Deceived)
 
Seamus Farrow (Mia and Woody's son)
Started college at 11, at Simon's Rock College of Bard in Great Barrington, MA. After two years being ferried back and forth to classes by Mia, she finally agreed to let him live on campus -- at age 14.  Accepted to Yale Law School, which he'll attend in the fall, and which he hopes to use to further human rights policies...
 
William Faulkner, author
Nobel Prize winner in literature, 1949
 
Geraldine Ferraro, 1st woman as major party Vice-Presidential candidate and former U.S. Representative
Skipped three grades...
 
Ruth Ann Udstad Fertel founder of Ruth's Chris Steak Houses
Skipped several grades in grammar school, and later entered Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge at the age of fifteen to pursue degrees in chemistry and physics...
 
Captain Robert FitzRoy
Captain of HMS Beagle on voyage of Charles Darwin, credited as the founder of meteorology.  He entered the Royal Navy College, Partsmouth, when he was almost 13
 
Roberta Flack, American singer, songwriter, and musician
During her early teens, Flack so excelled at classical piano that Howard University awarded her a full music scholarship. She entered Howard at the age of 15, making her one of the youngest students ever to enroll there...
 
Jodie Foster, actress and director
Graduated magna cum laude Yale University in English Literature, 1985; graduated as the best of her class from the College Lycée Français, 1980. Won two Academy Awards, for The Accused (1988, best actress), and The Silence of the Lambs (1991, best actress)
 
John Hope Franklin, Dean of African American historians, Professor Emeritus, Duke University and Duke University Law School, recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom
...graduated Fisk University at age 20
 
Betty Friedan, feminist
Founder of NOW, the National Organization for Women, author of The Feminine Mystique , 1999 biography Betty Friedan: Her Life
 
Milton Friedman, American economist and public intellectual
The youthful Friedman made heavy use of Rahway's small local library -- "almost exhausting the contents" -- and was an enthusiastic Boy Scout. He shined in the classroom, winning an unexpected promotion to seventh grade midway through sixth. Slight of stature - Friedman was about 5"2' as an adult - he played on the chess team and volunteered to do chores for the baseball team.  After graduating, he moved 12 miles away to New Brunswick and entered Rutgers University on a scholarship...
 
Priscilla Galloway, author
Skipped two grades
 
Art Garfunkel, singer and songwriter
Old Friends: Simon and Garfunkel, A Dual Biography
 
Maude F. Gatewood, painter, philanthropist
Skipped two grades
 
Shari Geller, former attorney and author
Fatal Convictions skipped twice
 
Chuck Geschke, Co-founder of Adobe Systems
"A few years later, when Sister was taking a course in Tests and Measurements at St. John's College, she needed to administer IQ tests to a number of children for practice. I was one of the guinea pigs. One result of that testing is that two of us were made part of principal Sr. Gertrude's experimentation with Accelerated Learning. Chuck Geschke (co-founder of Adobe Systems) and I were skipped from 5th grade to 7th grade, which landed us in the class with Lois and Jay Gardner and a whole host of other kids who graduated in 1952." blog of Professor John Lovas of De Anza College
 
Murray Gell-Mann Nobel Prize in Physics
Problems finding a good school, accelerated quite a bit; Nobel Prize in physics, entered Yale at 15, Ph.D. at 21.  Read more in Strange Beauty: Murray Gell-Mann and the Revolution in Twentieth-Century Physics
 
Malcolm Gets, Broadway and TV actor
Gets skipped two years of K-12 education and graduated from high school at the age of 16
 
Phillip Glass, American composer
Studied the flute as a child at the Peabody Conservatory of Music and entered an accelerated college program at the University of Chicago at the age of 15, where he studied Mathematics and Philosophy...
 
Mike Gminski, Basketball player turned commentator
Started at Duke at 16, recruited to NBA at 20 with his degree!, now sports commentator, after leaving high school a year early...
 
Karen Grassle actress
Best known from the role as Michael Landon’s wife, Caroline Ingalls, on Little House on the Prairie TV series;  graduated from high school in 1959, She skipped two grades serving as the student body's vice-president, and she then entered the University of California, Berkeley. She graduated with 2 BA degrees in 1965, one in English, the other in Dramatic Art. She received a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London, and eventually became head of its Voice Department...
 
Hanna Holborn Gray Provost and acting President of Yale University, President of the University of Chicago
Skipped 2 grades.  Read more in Portraits in Leadership: Six Extraordinary University Presidents (ACE/Praeger Series on Higher Education)
 
Ruth Gruber, correspondent
Ahead of Time: My Early Years as a Correspondent skipped often, graduated with doctorate at 19
 
Lene V. Hau Danish-born physicist, professor of physics at Harvard; member of the Royal Danish Academy of Sciences
skipped 10th grade
In Denmark 10th grade is optional and only about 1/3 of 9th grade students continue to 10th grade. It is for children who are not quite ready to make the educational decisions that needs to be made at this time in Denmark, whether to go to technical school, vocational school, business school or to prep-school necessary for college entrance. So skipping 10th grade in Denmark is normal and often quite desirable.
 
William Deane Hawkins United States Marine Corps officer
Posthumously awarded the United States' highest military honor — the Medal of Honor — for heroic actions and sacrifice of life during World War II.  Skipped fifth grade
 
Steven Hebert chair of Cellular and Molecular Physiology, Yale U School of Medicine, member of NAS
Skipped 2 years, also finished college in 3 years...
 
Sir Edmund Hillary first in group of 2 (with Nepalese guide) to climb Mt Everest
skipped 2 grades
 
Jan Hofmeyr, South African Parliamentarian and Visionary Genius
Educated at the University of Cape Town. He was an extraordinary student, graduating M.A. at the age of 17.  From Cape Town he went to Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar...
 
Leta Stetter Hollingworth, the mother of Gifted Education
graduated from Valentine High School at age 16 and continued to college, unheard of for women in her day.  A Forgotten Voice: A Biography of Leta Stetter Hollingworth by Anne Klein . Dr. Klein has woven the threads of Leta Hollingworth's life and the strands of educational philosophy (both past and present) into a cloak well worth the trying on...
 
Kathleen Holtz, Lawyer
Holtz started at Cal State L.A. at age 10 and entered UCLA Law at 15, earning a spot on the law review.  Once sworn in and admitted to the Calfornia bar, she’ll be the youngest lawyer in the Golden State, and quite possibly the nation...
 
Grace Murray Hopper (click here for photos, and first computer bug)
Navy Rear Admiral at 82, inventor of COBOL computer language (skipped twice)
 
Freeman A. Hrabowski, III, President of UMBC (The University of Maryland, Baltimore County), consultant to the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and universities and school systems nationally, child-leader in the Civil Rights Movement
After graduating from high school at the age of 15 (skipped two grades), Dr. Hrabowski graduated at 19 from Hampton Institute with highest honors in mathematics. At the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, he received his M.A. in mathematics, and four years later his Ph.D. in higher education administration/statistics at age 24...
 
Edwin Powell Hubble, Astronomer
graduated from high school at age 16, and continued to University of Chicago, where he received his B.S. 4 years later
 
Shari Huhndorf, Alaskan native, scholar of the Native Alaskan experience
Skipped 2 grades, received a Ph.D. in comparative literature from New York University in 1996, and she is currently director of the Ethnic Studies Program and associate professor of English at the University of Oregon. She is the author of Going Native: Indians in the American Cultural Imagination
 
Hideo Itokawa pioneer of Japanese rocketry and of the Japanese space program, author, professor
Popularly known as Dr. Rocket, and he has been described in the media as the father of Japanese space development.  Itokawa was a genius who skipped grades in school and studied many topics. He wrote 49 books, and was, many times, a best-selling author...
 
Mae Jemison, African-American astronaut
entered Stanford at age 16...
 
Steve Jobs, cofounder and chief executive officer (CEO) of Apple Computer, Inc
"Although the smartest kid in his class, Jobs became so difficult and obnoxious that he was thrown out of his fourth-grade class. Luckily, another, better, teacher took him in. Years later, Jobs would recall that the teacher found a quick motivational tool for the young man: bribes.  Especially money. With the prospect of a payoff down the line, Steven Jobs could do amazing things. So amazing that he skipped fifth grade altogether..." in Infinite Loop, by Michael Malone
 
Kevin Johnson professional basketball player
KJ skipped fifth grade because he was such an advanced student.  "We had to have several meetings at the school because they raised such a stink about it because he was so young," his mother recalled. "They had the fourth and fifth graders in one room and Kevin did all of the fourth grade work, then all of the fifth grade work and they still couldn't find enough for him to do. He started to become a little nuisance because they couldn't keep him busy. "It always concerned us because he was so young, he was a full year behind the other kids. But he was always real competitive so I think it was a challenge for him."
 
Lady Bird Johnson, First lady
Graduated high school at 15
 
Carolyn K., director of Hoagies' Gifted Education Page
Parent of two profoundly gifted children, entered school directly to 1st grade at 5, by passing the 5th grade California Achievement Test the principal gave her on a bet with her mother... 

And proud parent of a daughter who skipped three grades - self-orchestrated early entrance to K, moved to 2nd halfway through 1st, and skipped 6th entirely after subject acceleration in math and science in 5th. She graduated from undergrad at just-turned 19, and again with a masters degree before her 21st birthday. 
 
Michael Kearney
Graduated college at 10, taught college by 17, won AOL's Gold Rush at 22 - he's a millionaire!  Read more in Accidental Genius by his parents, Kevin and Cassidy Kearney
 
Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy
mother of John Fitzgerald Kennedy...
 
Carol King, American singer, songwriter, and pianist
"My mother enrolled me in kindergarten when I was four. By the end of the school year I had demonstrated such an exceptional facility with numbers and words that my teachers promoted me directly to second grade." pg 16, Carol King's autobiography, A Natural Woman
 
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, leader of the Civil Rights Movement and the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize
skipped twice, graduated from high school at 15
 
Michael Klein, Chief executive officer of Pacificor LLC, company that manages several hedge fund; founded two companies in the 1990s before becoming president and CEO of eGroups Inc., which was the world's largest group e-mail communication service (now Yahoo Groups)
A colleague described Klein as a brilliant businessman who skipped high school and graduated from college at age 17.  ''One of the most interesting people you could ever speak to on any ... in a myriad of subjects...''
 
Robert Klein comedian, actor
Skipped 8th grade.  Read more in The Amorous Busboy of Decatur Avenue: A Child of the Fifties Looks Back
 
Arthur Kornberg, Nobel prize for Medicine for discovering "DNA polymerase"
Graduated from high school at 15; read more in Doctors and Discoveries: Lives That Created Today's Medicine 
 
Alan Kotok American computer scientist, associate chair of World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)
By age 3, Kotok survived an inquiry into an electrical outlet with a screwdriver, and by age 6, he could build and wire household lamps. Kotok skipped two grades and started college at MIT at age 16...
 
Harvey Kurtzman, creator and first editor of Mad Magazine
from Completely Mad by Maria Reidelbach
 
Michael Lanham, youngest Rhodes Scholar (2000) at age 18
skipped several grades, entered Centre College at age 15
 
Joshua Lederberg, Nobel Laureate in medicine and physiology
graduated Stuyvesant High School age 16, Columbia College with honours in Zoology (premedical course) age 20, and College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University Medical School age 22   (page 26 of A Nation Deceived)
 
Stan Lee, former head writer, editorial and art director, publisher, and chairman of Marvel Comics
I studied hard and skipped grades...  Read more in Excelsior! : The Amazing Life of Stan Lee
 
John Legend, (John Roger Stephens) American singer-songwriter and actor
Skipped first and seventh grades (he stated on Oprah). "At the age of twelve, Legend attended North High School, from which he graduated four years later. Upon his salutatorian graduation, Legend was offered scholarships to Harvard University, Georgetown University and Morehouse College. He attended the University of Pennsylvania, where he studied English with an emphasis on African American literature." Wikipedia
 
Tom Lehrer
Harvard math professor, who in the '50's and 60's wrote some really funny satirical songs.  The CD compilation, The Remains of Tom Lehrer, includes a book that is a mini-biography.  Skipped two grades and finished his undergraduate degree at Harvard when he was 18
 
Huey Lewis American musician and songwriter
Skipped second grade
 
Art Linkletter TV Personality
 
Steve Lu fourth year grad student in the Department of Mathematics, UCLA
Started studying at California State University in 1996, when he was 10!
 
Yo Yo Ma cellist
Skipped two grades
 
Jena Malone, actress
Skipped two grades
 
Thurgood Marshall, Justice of the Supreme Court (1967-1991)
NAACP attorney who successfully argued Brown v. Board of Education before the US Supreme Court, later became Solicitor General of the U.S., and then Justice of the Supreme Court; grade skipped and graduated early (two skips)
 
Pacien Mazzagatti, conductor
Heralded by Opera News as “clearly a name to watch,” conductor Pacien Mazzagatti has already garnered considerable critical acclaim for his work conducting opera in New York City.  An accomplished pianist, Mr. Mazzagatti began his musical studies at a very early age. At nineteen years old he completed his Bachelor of Music degree from Temple University in piano...
 
James D. McCawley, one of the great figures of Twentieth Century linguistics, a recipient of practically every honor possible, Past President of the LSA
He was recognized early as very bright, and skipped several grades while attending parochial grade schools and St. Mel’s High School. Entering the University of Chicago in 1954 at the age of 16 under its early admission program, he progressed rapidly, gaining early admission also to the graduate school, from which he received an M.S. in Mathematics in 1958.
 
Nellie McKay, songwriter, musician
Skipped two grades
 
Jonathan Nicolas Meijer aka User: Jonnay,  French Canadian entrepreneur, computer engineer, software developer and network administrator
After less than two months of grade 8, he skipped to grade 9, thereby also attending a different school, l'École secondaire publique De La Salle...
 
Robin Milhausen Canadian sexologist and talk show host
Skipped third grade
 
Charles Miller chair of Commission on the Future of Higher Education
He skipped fourth grade and later earned a bachelor's degree in math. He was a nationally competitive bridge master in his teens and 20s...
 
George Mitchell, politician
Former senator from Maine, former Senate Majority leader, broker of the peace deal in Northern Ireland
 
Paul Morphy, (USA, 1837-1884)
Perhaps the greatest chess player who ever lived, statistically 'the gap' that separated him from his generation was larger than any other player in the history of the game of chess.  Morphy was also a gifted student, who took highly accelerated courses, he was doing university level math before age 10.  Paul Morphy finished his studies before he was 18, and passed the Bar Exam the following year. As he was too young to practice law, (The legal age for this was then 21, although most firms would not hire you until you were much older.); so he turned his attention to chess. He traveled to New York, and played in a chess congress there...
 
Rex Murphy, Canadian journalist and broadcaster
Skipped 2 years...
 
Nathan Myhrvold former Chief Technology Officer at Microsoft, co-founder of Intellectual Ventures
Myhrvold attended Mirman School. He began college at age 14. He studied mathematics, geophysics, and space physics at UCLA (BSc, Masters). At Princeton he earned a master's degree in mathematical economics and completed a PhD in theoretical and mathematical physics by age 23.  Read his testimony on “Patent Quality and Improvement”
 
Ashish Nanda, Professor
Assistant Professor in General Management, Harvard University
 
John Gneisenau Neihardt, Nebraska's Poet Laureate for fifty-two years
Graduated from Wayne Normal College at the age of sixteen. He began writing poetry at the age of twelve and published his first book at the age of  nineteen...
 
Jack Nicholson, actor
Having skipped a grade, Jack was a year younger than most of his classmates... Read more in Jack's Life: A Biography of Jack Nicholson
 
Pat Ryan Nixon, former First Lady of the United States of America
With superior grades, Pat Ryan Nixon skipped the second grade; she graduated cum laude from University of Southern California
 
Richard Nixon, President of the United States of America
Skipped the second grade; read more in The Contender: Richard Nixon: The Congress Years, 1946 to 1952
 
Michelle Obama, wife of Barack Obama
She and her brother, Craig (who is 16 months older), skipped the second grade. She grew up on the south side of Chicago and went on to Princeton and Harvard Law
 
Sandra Day O'Connor, jurist
Became the first woman Supreme Court Associate Justice.  Read more in Lazy B: Growing up on a Cattle Ranch in the American Southwest by Sandra Day O'Connor
 
Amobi Okoye pro football player (Houston Texans)
Skipped 6th grade – began college at 16
 
Karen Page, author
"My wife (and co-author) Karen Page skipped a grade in elementary school, and was admitted to Northwestern University at the age of 16. She also earned an MBA from Harvard, where she was an AAUW Foundation Fellow and one of five nominees for the Fitzie Foundation Award honoring the most outstanding woman student. She is the co-author of many cookbooks, including The Flavor Bible which was named one of the best cookbooks of 2008 by "Good Morning America," People magazine, and the San Francisco Chronicle. Can you tell that I'm proud of her?" -- husband and co-author Andrew Dornenburg
 
Martin L. Perl, physicist
Nobel Laureate in physics 1995 with Frederick Reines, for the discovery of the tau lepton
 
Marie Ponsot,  poet, teacher
Skipped three grades...
 
Alma Powell, wife of Colin Powell
Alma had skipped grades in school and graduated from Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, at the age of nineteen... Read more in My American Journey
 
Hal Prince, theatrical producer and director extraordinaire
Productions include Fiddler on the Roof, Company, Zorba, A Little Night Music, Cabaret, Candide, to name but a few (see Internet Broadway Database for a complete list).  Started college at University of Pennsylvania at "barely 16" and graduated at 19, according to his 1974 autobiography
 
Norman F. Ramsey, physicist
Nobel Laureate in physics 1989 with Hans G. Dehmelt and Wolfgang Paul, "for the invention of the separated oscillatory fields method and its use in the hydrogen maser and other atomic clocks"
 
Ronald Reagan, 40th President of the U.S.
Reading newspapers before he entered school, he earned a 95 average in first grade, and he skipped a grade... Read more in Ronnie and Nancy: Their Path to the White House--1911 to 1980
 
Condoleezza Rice, White House Cabinet Member, Thomas and Barbara Stephenson Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution
Rice enrolled at the University of Denver at the age of 15, graduating at 19 with a bachelor's degree in political science (cum laude). She earned a master's degree at the University of Notre Dame and a doctorate from the University of Denver's Graduate School of International Studies. Both of her advanced degrees are also in political science.
 
Robert C. Richardson, chemist
Nobel Laureate in physics 1996 with David M. Lee and Douglas D. Osheroff, for their discovery of superfluidity in helium-3
 
Sally Ride, astronaut
Ph.D. in physics, and a dual undergraduate degree in Physics and English due to her interest in Shakespeare. Sally Ride traveled through Europe with her family, for a year, at age 9. Her mother indicated "They learned as much traveling as they would have in school. "When she came back she was so far ahead they accelerated her.
 
LeeAnn Rimes, country singer
 
Tina Rosenberg, journalist
First freelance journalist to receive a five-year MacArthur Fellowship "genius" award; Pulitzer Prize in Letters and Drama, General Non-Fiction, for her book The Haunted Land: Facing Europe's Ghosts After Communism
 
Eugene V. Rostow, public servant, head of the Arms Control Agency, held a number of high government foreign policy posts
Skipped two grades. Read more in America's Rasputin: Walt Rostow and the Vietnam War
 
Walt Whitman Rostow, American economist and political theorist, served as Special Assistant for National Security Affairs for U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson
Skipped two grades. Read more in America's Rasputin: Walt Rostow and the Vietnam War
 
Philip Roth, American novelist
Skipped a grade.  Read more in Conversations With Philip Roth 
 
Murray N. Rothbard, economist, historian, political scientist
He skipped grades "with disconcerting rapidity."  Read more in An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard
 
Jeffrey Nathan Rottman M.D., cardiac surgeon, Professor of Medicine and Professor of Pharmacology, Vanderbilt University Medical Center
The third person to be radically accelerated by Julian Stanley.  In 1972, he was "an extremely able tenth-grader terribly bored with the low academic level of his public high school classes. I got him into Johns Hopkins as a regular freshman majoring in mathematics..."
 
F. Sherwood Rowland, chemist
Nobel Laureate in chemistry 1995 with Paul Crutzen and Mario Molina, for their work in atmospheric chemistry, particularly concerning the formation and decomposition of ozone
 
Alia Sabur, World's youngest Professor
She made the jump to college at age 10. And by age 14, Sabur was earning a bachelor’s of science degree in applied mathematics summa cum laude from Stony Brook University — the youngest female in U.S. history to do so...
 
Ephraim Salaam, football player
San Diego State University
 
Teresa Scanlan, Miss America 2011
Skipped one year of high school, also homeschooled.
 
Daniel Schorr, journalist (b. 1916)
The distinguished journalist entered high school as a sophomore a month after his 13th birthday, "having saved a year in junior high school." He also found his passion early, working on the school paper and editing the yearbook. While attending CCNY, he switched to night school so he could work as a freelance news writer, and took two extra years to graduate college. In a career spanning more than 6 decades, he has worked in print, radio and TV. He has received numerous awards, and has been inducted into the Society of Professional Journalists Hall of Fame. At 84, he continues to work as a senior news analyst for NPR and has published his memoir, "Staying Tuned."
 
Charles Schulz, cartoonist, Peanuts
Two times he skipped half a grade...
 
Stephen Semmes, Noah Harding Professor of Mathematics, Rice University
received his BS at age 18, his PhD in mathematics at 21, and was hired as a full professor at Rice at age 25
 
Earl Shaw, African-American physicist
Skipped a grade...  Read more in Black Genius
 
Harry Shearer, voice of Mr. Burns, Smithers, Ned Flanders (and more!) on The Simpsons
started college at 16...
 
Brooke Shields, actress
Graduated Princeton University, in French literature
 
Paul Simon, singer and songwriter
Old Friends: Simon and Garfunkel, A Dual Biography
 
Louise Sklar, pioneering woman veterinarian
Graduated from high school at 15, by-passed pre-vet, finished at age 19...
 
Hamilton O. Smith, doctor
Nobel Laureate in medicine 1978 with Werner Arber and Daniel Nathans, for the discovery of restriction enzymes and their application to problems of molecular genetics
 
Jan Christian Smuts, Prime Minister of the South African Union
At 16 Smuts went to Victoria College in Stellenbosch, forerunner of the present University. After a brilliant career at Stellenbosch, Smuts went to Cambridge, 1891, where he read for the Bar...
 
Stephen Sondheim, American composer and lyricist
Enrolled in 1st grade at age 6. Already reading the New York Times, by 5th grade, taking calculus. Skipped from 7th to 8th grade.  Graduated from the George School at 16; Williams College at 20.  Revolutionized the American musical...  Read more in Stephen Sondheim and Andrew Lloyd Webber: The New Musical
 
Susan Sontag, writer
Educated "all in public schools, quite a number of them, each one more lowering than the one before. But I was lucky to have started school before the era of the child psychologists. Since I could read and write, I was immediately put into the third grade, and later I was skipped another semester, so I was graduated from high school . . . when I was still fifteen." From a 1994 interview with Edward Hirsch published in the Paris Review's "Women Writers at Work."
 
David Spade, witty social commentary
Saturday Night Live comedian
 
Gerry Spence prominent trial lawyer
The teacher reported... "He is very bright.  He is ahead of all the other children even though he's skipped a grade, and I don't know what to do with him."  Read more in The Making of a Country Lawyer: An Autobiography
 
Barbara Sproul author of Primal Myths: Creation Myths Around the World, one of the the founding members of Amnesty International U.S.A.
 “I skipped fourth grade.”  Barbara earned her B.A. from Sarah Lawrence and her M.A. and Ph.D. in religion from Columbia.  She has been a professor and director of the Program in Religion at Hunter College, CUNY
 
Julian Stanley, educator
Founder of the Johns Hopkins programs for exceptionally talented youth
 
Sharon Stone, actress
 
William Styron award-winning novelist (The Confessions of Nat Turner; Sophie's Choice; etc.) & co-founder of the Paris Review
With predisposition for literature (Styron learned to read well before he entered the first grade) and a grandfather who "possessed much native writing ability..."
 
Nicole Sullivan actress and comedian
most notable for being one of the original cast of comedians on sketch comedy series MADtv.  Nicole did so well academically that she skipped a grade in middle school. Nicole was president of her class during her senior year of high school. She was treasurer her junior year...
 
Alexandra Swann, author of I Was an Accelerated Child
For more detail, read No Regrets: How Home Schooling Earned Me A Masters Degree At Age 16
 
Jodie Leanne Sweetin actress and typical teenager
Played Stephanie on the TV sitcom Full House, for 8 years beginning at only 5 years old
 
Terence Tao UCLA Professor, Fields medal winner (2006), along with the Salem Prize (2000), Bocher Prize (2002), Clay Research Award (2003) and American Mathematical Society's Levi L. Conant Prize
Terence Tao exhibited mature mathematical abilities from an early age. Tao attended university at the age of nine. He is one of only two children in the history of the Johns Hopkins Study of Exceptional Talent program to have achieved a score of 700 or greater on the SAT math section while just 8 years old (he scored a 760). In 1986, 1987, and 1988, Tao was the youngest participant to date in the International Mathematical Olympiads, first competing at the age of ten, winning a bronze, silver, and gold medal respectively. He won the gold medal when he just turned thirteen and remains the youngest gold medalist in the tournament's history. At age 14, Tao attended the Research Science Institute. He received his bachelor's and master's degrees (at the age of 17) from Flinders University under Garth Gaudry. From 1992 to 1996, Tao was a graduate student at Princeton University under the direction of Elias Stein, receiving his Ph.D. at the age of 20. He joined UCLA's faculty that year.  Read Journeys to the Distant Fields of Prime for more...
 
Fran Tarkenton football star, software executive, TV personality
Skipped 6th grade.
 
William Thompson Lord Kelvin (the great physicist for whom the Kelvin was named), b. Belfast, 1823)
William was home taught (not uncommon in the 19th century). His father was Professor of Mathematics at the Royal Institution of Belfast. When William turned 10, his father was offered the Chair of Mathematics at the University of Glasgow; William, at age 10, entered the university. He was the top in his class in math, logic and classics; published the first of some 600 scientific papers at the age of 16. He went on to Cambridge for what was, in effect, graduate work in theoretical physics. He was also on the rowing team and founded the Cambridge University music society. After a brief time in Paris, he became Professor of Natural Philosophy in Glasgow, a position he held for 53 years. After his death in 1907, he was buried in Westminster Abbey near Newton and Darwin, as a mark of esteem.
 
Shawn Toovey, child actor
Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman among others (skipped multiple grades)
 
Charles Hard Townes, Nobel Laureate in Physics 1964
After serving as vice president and director of research of the Institute for Defense Analyses, Washington, D.C., he was provost of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1961–66).   Skipped 7th grade, graduated with dual bachelors degrees at age 19...
 
George I. Traitses, chiropractor
formed the company known as Infinite Health, the first High Tech Nutritional Evaluation Clinic in Canada
 
Harry Truman, 33rd President of the United States of America
Skipped a grade even after missing almost a year of school to a nearly paralyzing disease
 
Valerie Vigoda, musician, founding member of Groovelily
Raised in a suburb outside Washington D.C., [Valerie] Vigoda grew up singing with her father and began violin lessons at age 8. She also skipped three grades and at age 14, became the youngest female accepted to Princeton University...
 
Aaron Ward, professional hockey player
Skipped 2 grades “Whatever he hits, he destroys”
 
Earl Warren, governor of California and Chief Justice of the United States
Earl was small for his age as a boy and, because he started school early and skipped a grade... Read more in Justice for All: Earl Warren and the Nation He Made
 
Robert Penn Warren, writer, anthologist, editor of The Southern Review, professor, and inveterate traveler
he skipped three grades...
 
Dr. James D. Watson, president Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
1962 Nobel Laureate in Medicine with Francis H. C. Crick, for their discoveries concerning the molecular structure of nuclear acids and its significance for information transfer in living material. B.A., University of Chicago, 1947 (age 19, entered college after sophomore year of high school)
 
Norbert Wiener
Wiener received his college degree from Tufts at the age of fourteen and a doctorate from Harvard a few years later; he contributed to a broad variety of mathematical and scientific fields and was a widely-read popularizer of scientific concepts, including many which he originated.
 
Oprah Winfrey, talk show host
"At three Oprah could read. She also learned how to write. On the first day of kindergarten she wrote, "Dear Miss New, I do not think I belong her." She was moved to the first grade, and at the end of the year she was skipped to the third grade..."
 
Rosalyn S. Yalow, pioneering women scientist
Entered college at 15...
 
Bad Hair Day"Weird" Al Yankovic, musician and humorist, see Music for Gifted Mind
Served as valedictorian of his high school at age 16...
 
Jeffrey Zucker president of NBC Television
Skipped a grade...
 

Fictional Grade Skipped Characters

Karen Brewer in Baby-Sitters Little Sister
Karen is quite gifted--she is younger than most of her classmates as she skipped the first grade. She won many spelling bees (going so far as to compete in the State Bee) and has many hobbies which consist of reading, writing, arts and crafts, softball, and running small neighborhood businesses (dog walking and lemonade stands in particular)...
 
Leslie Clark in the ClueFinders
Leslie's first word was "encyclopedia," and she uses complicated words all the time simply for the sake of it. For example she describes tossing a frisbee as "exploring the aerodynamics of this projectile". Leslie is the only character ever depicted with a skirt. Leslie's grandfather is Captain Clark, the captain of a ship that featured in The ClueFinders 5th Grade Adventures. Leslie has green eyes and her hair varies between dark brown and black in different products. She is 10 years old and in sixth grade (she skipped a grade)...
 
Charlie Eppes in Numbers
Charlie Eppes, professor of mathematics at a Southern California technical university, uses math to help his brother Don solve perplexing crimes for the FBI...
 
Doogie Howser in Doogie Howser, M.D.
A brilliant teenaged doctor who was also faced with the problems of being a normal teenager, despite having graduated from Princeton University at age 10.  The show characterized the genius Howser as a normal teenager, rather than having the stereotypical traits of TV "nerds"...
 
Chiyo Mihama in Azumanga Daioh
A child prodigy, Chiyo has skipped five grades to 10th grade (the first grade in Japanese high school) at the start of the series and is still at the top of the class. Although extremely smart and responsible for her age (she is the Class Representative, and she packs her own bento box every morning), she still has the naïvete, desires, and fears of a child. But despite it all, she gets along well with her much older classmates...
 
Patricia "Patty" Pryor in American Dreams
The series ended in the summer after Patty's sophomore year at East Catholic (she skipped a grade).  It is revealed that Patty achieved her goal to attend Radcliffe College in Massachusetts...
 
Christopher "Kit" K. Rodriguez in the Young Wizards
Despite being one year younger than Nita, Kit is usually the more mature member of the pair. Kit is in Nita's grade in school, having skipped a grade. He often gets teased because of his Spanish accent....
 
David "Skip" Ross in Just Legal
Nicknamed "Skip" by his peers, is not nicknamed "Skip" because he skipped classes, but rather because he skipped so many grades through his young life. At the age of 18, he is already a lawyer in the California Bar Association, graduating number 1 in his class. His ambition is to become the best trial lawyer ever. Unfortunately for him, because of his young age, no downtown law firm is willing to hiring him, except...
 
Anne Shirley of Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
When Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert of Green Gables, Prince Edward Island, send for a boy orphan to help them out at the farm, they are in no way prepared for the error that will change their lives, in the shape of Anne Shirley, a redheaded 11-year-old girl who can talk anyone under the table. Fortunately, her sunny nature and quirky imagination quickly win over her reluctant foster parents...  Eventually, Anne has the top high-school entrance exam score in the province, and completes the standard two-year course in a single year...
 
Alison Taylor in The Simpsons
A student at Springfield Elementary School and Lisa's new classmate, introduced in the episode "Lisa's Rival". Allison is as smart or smarter than Lisa, younger (having skipped a grade) and like Lisa, a young master of the saxophone. Regardless, Lisa tries to be her friend, though she battles her envy and jealousy...
 
Liberty Van Zandt in Degrassi: The Next Generation
Liberty has always been the nerd of the bunch. Smart but awkward and can't tell when people are not into her, Liberty is very a pristine perfectionist savant. She skipped grade 6, which sent her from grade 5 straight into junior high at Degrassi. She doesn't encounter many issues being a girl who has control over her life and her mind set on education...

Copyright © 1999-2007\8 Carolyn K.

Last updated September 10, 2014

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