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10 People Who Were The Youngest Of Their Kind

by Mike Devlin
fact checked by Jamie Frater

Society has a tendency to revere youth, when our bodies are at their strongest and most beautiful. However, many accomplishments often require a lifetime of training, preparation, and wisdom. Below are ten people whose achievements were accomplished earlier than anyone else—for better or worse.

10Youngest Serial Killer

Anyone who has spent more than 10 minutes on a playground at recess knows well that kids can be cruel. Indeed, many of the antisocial tendencies that eventually culminate in more serious crimes, such as torturing animals, appear in very young children. Occasionally, a boy or a girl will even take a life.

Finding a serial killer that hasn’t even hit puberty, however, is extraordinarily rare. The youngest serial killer on the records was eight-year-old Amardeep Sada of Bihar, India. Sada was responsible for three deaths, including his infant cousin and sister, and was captured after killing a neighbor’s child. All three were bludgeoned with stones. Precisely what evil drove Sada is unknown—when the press asked police about Sada’s psychiatric state, they replied that the boy “just smiled a lot and asked for biscuits.”

9Youngest Marathon Runner

Any parent who has ever brought kids to a theme park can attest to a small child’s lack of endurance—but in Orissa, India, a tiny boy named Budhia Singh has done much to change that perception. At the tender age of three years old, Singh began running marathons.

The child’s mother, crippled by poverty, was forced to sell him. The boy eventually came under the custody of Biranchi Das, an orphanage owner and judo coach. Once, Das caught young Budhia misbehaving, and as a punishment, forced him to run. Budhia ran for hours. By the age of four, he’d run in 48 marathons. Despite his ability, there was some concern that Budhia was being exploited by Biranchi Das, and he was taken out of his care in 2007. Budhia is now in a state-run academy and Das was slain the next year in an apparently unrelated incident. Interestingly enough, the state of Orissa was also home to Fauja Singh, the world’s oldest marathoner, who competed after the age of 100.

8Youngest College Graduate

It is unfortunately common for so-called child prodigies to fizzle out, crushed by the pressure of a heavy workload and denied the trappings of youth. One such case is that of Adragon De Mello, who graduated from the University of California at Santa Cruz in 1988 at age 11. At time time, he was the youngest college grad in US history, having earned a BS in computational mathematics.

Fifteen years later, instead of changing the world in a laboratory, De Mello was working at a Home Depot. His record as youngest college graduate was then broken by a boy named Michael Kearny, who graduated at age 10 and earned two master’s degrees before reaching adulthood. Kearny would go on to make some appearances in game shows such as Gold Rush, where he won $1 million.

7Youngest To Climb Mount Everest

In recent years, the scaling of Mount Everest has become an increasingly commercialized venture. Since Edmund Hilary and Tenzig Norgay ascended the peak in 1953, thousands of people have successfully made the climb. However, there remains incredible danger in the pursuit—approximately 10 percent of climbers die trying. Given the attendant risk and the mountaineering expertise required—not to mention the cost, which can run thousands of dollars—most climbers are middle aged.

One of the youngest was adventuring television personality Bear Grylls, who completed the feat in 1998 at the age of 23. But this accomplishment pales in comparison to that of Jordan Romero of Big Bear, California, who climbed Everest in May 2010. Jordan was just 13 when he conquered the world’s tallest peak. He wasn’t done there, either—in addition to Everest, he climbed Mounts Kiliminjaro, Elbrus, Aconcagua, McKinley, and Carstensz Pyramid by age 15, as well as Vinson Massif in Antarctica. He went on to write a book about his adventures called The Boy Who Conquered Everest: The Jordan Romero Story.

6Youngest Person To Appear On A Billboard Chart


There are no shortage of young musicians, but most don’t break into the charts until they are old enough form sentences. That all changed in early 2012 when Blue Ivy Carter, the daughter of megastars Jay-Z and Beyonce, made a cameo on her father’s single “Glory” days after her birth.

The song functions as a father’s love letter to his baby, telling her “my greatest creation was you.” As you would expect, Blue Ivy’s contribution to the track was somewhat minimal—just some crying Jay-Z had recorded right after she was born. Still, it was enough to secure her place as the youngest person ever to appear on the Billboard charts. Her collaboration as “B.I.C.” ranked at number 74 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hong Songs chart upon its release.

5Youngest Marine Drill Instructor

In his youth, Donnie Dunagan was a child actor, appearing in films such as 1939’s Son of Frankenstein and Tower of London. His most celebrated role, however, would be providing the voice of Walt Disney’s Bambi. It would be his last—shortly thereafter, his family split up and he was forced to work and seek refuge in a boarding house. At 18, he joined the Marine Corps, becoming the youngest drill instructor in that institution’s history.

His military career led him to Vietnam, where he was wounded, and Dunagan would eventually rise to the rank of major before retiring in 1977. Throughout his time in the Marines, Donnie kept his movie career a secret before he was finally discovered in June 2005. In interviews, the now 79-year-old Dunagan says he’s learned to embrace his fame.

4Youngest Person To Commit Suicide

The youngest person to intentionally commit suicide is certainly a tragic record, and one that cannot be fully substantiated. One person in consideration for this role was six-year-old Samantha Kuberski of Oregon, who hanged herself on December 2, 2009.

The first grader had been sent to her room after getting into an argument with her mother. There, she looped a belt around her neck and affixed it to a crib. After her seemingly lifeless body was discovered, she was rushed to the hospital, where she later died. While police believe the case was an unfortunate accident, state medical examiners ruled it a suicide, leading to a debate whether children of that age can even appreciate the permanent gravity of such a decision.

3Youngest Billionaire

Most of us at least occasionally dream of fabulous wealth, castles, and Ferraris. Unfortunately, the reality is that few of us will become millionaires, let alone billionaires. Most of those who do attain such a lofty fortune only do so after a lifetime of smart business decisions and plain dumb luck. However, the emergence of the Internet has seen the rise of an increasingly young, super rich population.

The most obvious member of this club is Facebook mastermind Mark Zuckerberg, who became the youngest billionaire in the world at the age of 23 in 2007. He wouldn’t hold the title for long—just a few years later, he lost the distinction to his own college roommate, Dustin Moskovitz. Although he doesn’t work there anymore, Dustin’s wealth stems from a 6 percent ownership stake in Facebook. He is exactly eight days younger than Zuckerberg.

2Youngest Grandmother

Most of us think of grandmothers as blue-haired old ladies in support hose, baking cookies and sending checks for $5 on our birthdays. However, there have been multiple cases of grandmothers in their twenties and even earlier.

It is believed the youngest grandmother was a girl named Mum-Zi, who served in a harem in Calabar, Nigeria. Mum-Zi was eight at the time of her daughter’s birth, and her daughter eight and a half when she had a child, making Mum a grandma at the tender age of 17, before many Western girls even lose their virginity. This story, however, dates back to the 19th century and is not terribly well substantiated. A more official claim to the title is held by Romanian Rifca Stanescu, who apparently became a grandmother at just 23. Stanescu’s grandson, two-year-old Ion, is already betrothed to an eight-year-old neighbor.

1Youngest American WWII Veteran

Most 12-year-old boys are preoccupied with Little League and just beginning to become keen on girls, but Calvin Graham was of a different character altogether. Graham enlisted with the US Navy after Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese. The 12-year-old was shipped off to combat in the Pacific, serving on the USS South Dakota. During the Battle of Guadalcanal, he acted heroically, suffering shrapnel wounds.

After being awarded the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart, his mother broke the news that he was, in fact, underage. Instead of sending him home with a few stern words, the Navy actually locked him up for three months for lying.

His decision to serve as a child would haunt him the rest of his life. He was stripped of his accolades and spent years fighting for medical benefits. He eventually joined the Marines when he was 17, but had to drop out after breaking his back. Over the years, various presidents interceded on his behalf, including Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton. He did not receive his Purple Heart back until after he’d already died, 50 years after it was taken away from him.

Mike Devlin is an aspiring novelist.

fact checked by Jamie Frater