Who is the oldest person to get a PhD?

Unisa’s oldest doctorate proved that, despite some challenges, you are never too old to learn.

Andries Conradie, 91, a retired academic and principal, recently graduated from ZK Matthews Hall on the Unisa Pretoria campus, where he received his doctorate in literature and philosophy from the Has College of Humanities.

Christopher Langan

Born in San Francisco in 1952, Christopher Langan is a unique genius: at the age of four, he had taught himself to read. In high school, says Langan, he taught himself “progressive math, physics, philosophy, Latin and Greek, all that stuff.” It is also reported that he got 100% on his SAT test, although he slept some of it. Langan attended Montana State University but dropped out. Like the main character in the 1997 film Good Will Hunting, Langan did not choose an academic career; Instead, he worked as a bouncer and developed his cognitive-theoretical model of the universe in his spare time. In 1999, neuropsychologist Robert Novelly told the television news magazine 20/20 that Langan’s IQ – between 195 and 210 – was the highest he had ever measured. Langan was called “the smartest man in America”.

Judit Polgár was born in Budapest, Hungary in 1976 and is undoubtedly considered the greatest female chess player in history. Polgár was a chess prodigy and defeated her first grandmaster when she was only 11 years old.

She is currently the only woman in the top 100 female players of the World Chess Federation. She also beat nine world champions including Garry Kasparov and Anatoly Karpov. In 1991, aged 15 years and five months, Polgár won the Hungarian national championship and became the youngest ever grandmaster – beating Bobby Fischer’s long-standing record by a month. Apparently, the way Polgár’s father raised her and her sisters was part of an experiment to prove that “geniuses are made, not born.” And given Polgár’s reported IQ of 170 and his impressive achievements, he might be onto something.

When is it too late for a doctorate?

As a college career coach, many people have asked me if it is too late to get a PhD. Some of these people were even in their twenties and they feared that working for two years after their disability would inevitably exclude them from the world of academia.

Others were past middle age and looking for a career change. In both cases, the answer is ultimately no, it is not too late to start your thesis. However, there are some important things to consider when considering this.

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