6 Teens Who Are Way Smarter Than You

By Lauren Hansen

Did you pass Britain's bar exam at 18? Yeah, I didn't think so.

1. The youngest ever to pass Britain's bar exam

It's safe to say Gabrielle Turnquest (above) is one serious smartypants. The Florida native graduated from Liberty University in Virginia with a psychology degree at the age of 16. She then went on to study law in the U.K., where this year, at the age of 18, she became the youngest ever to pass Britain's bar exam. (The average age of test-takers is 27 years old.)

But Turnquest isn't stopping there. The motivated teen hopes to qualify as a lawyer back home in America as well as in the Bahamas, the country of her parents, and ultimately become a specialist in fashion law.

2. The pre-teen studying medicine

In 2003, Sho Yano became the youngest student to study medicine at the University of Chicago School of Medicine. Not even technically a teenager, the 12-year-old had already notched accomplishments above and beyond his mere dozen years. By age three he was playing Chopin on the piano and composing original work by four. By age eight he had scored a 1,500 out of a possible 1,600 points on his SATs, and started college the next year. He went on to graduate summa cum laude from Chicago's Loyola University in just three years before starting medical school.

And just last year, Sho completed his degrees at the ripe old age of 21, becoming the University of Chicago's youngest M.D. ever. "I guess it's a good feeling to be the youngest, but it doesn't feel like something particularly unusual to me," Sho told the Chicago Sun Times. "It's just what I've done."

3. The teen paving the way for safer nuclear energy

Nuclear power could arguably help free the U.S. from its dependence on fossil fuels, but there's once catch: It's environmentally risky, as anyone from Fukushima will tell you.

Enter Taylor Wilson. The 19-year-old has designed a smaller, modular fission reactor that is not only less expensive to run, but also safer to operate. Wilson's design is reportedly 15 percent more efficient than today's reactors, and would require refueling every 30 years instead of the current rate of every 18 months.

Wilson says his design would do no less than combat climate change, bring affordable power to the developing world, and power rockets to explore space. You know, no big deal. And if you're wondering what kind of cred this wunderkind has, Wilson was able to achieve nuclear fusion at the age of 14 — the youngest person ever to do so. "This could be the source of energy that provides carbon-free electricity," he has said.

4. America's youngest lawyer

Stephen Baccus wanted to be a lawyer so badly that he petitioned the Florida Supreme Court to waive a state law that says only contracts signed by those 18 years or older are valid. In 1986, Baccus, who graduated from college at age 14 with a degree in computer science, passed the Florida state bar on his 17th birthday. "I could have waited until I am 18, but I didn't want to,"he told the Miami News at the time.

With the court ruling in his favor, Baccus became the youngest lawyer in modern American history and went on to start his own firm. After seven years building his law career, Baccus changed gears. Eager for the humbling challenges of science, the one-time child genius earned a doctorate in neuroscience from the University of Miami. "If money was my primary motivating factor I might have different career plans, but it's not," he told the Associated Press in 1999 after graduation. "I'm interested in doing something interesting to me."

5. The youngest to win the MacArthur "genius grant"

You can't apply for the MacArthur fellowship. You can't even be nominated for it. The five-year, no-strings-attached grant is gifted one day out of thin air. The so-called "genius grant" is typically awarded to between 20 and 40 Americans of any age, working in any field, who show "extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits." And in 1984, David Stuart got the phone call that would make him the youngest fellow in the foundation's history. "I was dumbfounded," Stuart told the Harvard Crimson at the time. "The call came out of the blue."

The 18-year-old expert in Mayan archaeology had been studying ancient scripts since he was three years old. At the age of 14, Stuart published his first paper, "Some Thoughts on Certain Occurrences of the T565 Glyph Element at Palenque." He went on to publish two more papers before graduating high school and being accepted as a junior fellow in pre-Columbian studies at the Washington, D.C., research branch of Harvard University. Previously, the youngest MacArthur winner was a 22-year-old physicist.

6. The teen prodigy battling pancreatic cancer

One of the many unfortunate characteristics of pancreatic cancer is that it is usually caught too late to save the patient. After a family friend died of the disease, Jack Andraka decided to devote himself to making a better early-detection test. The solution came to him during his freshman biology class and the teen set to work. He read free online journals and anything that came up in Google searches to develop a plan and a budget. He sent proposals to about 200 laboratories requesting to use their facilities. He received only one acceptance letter from Dr. Anirban Maitra at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

Andraka worked at the lab after school, on weekends, and over holidays to develop his test, which he submitted to the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair ("the Olympics of science fairs," he said). The 15-year-old's final product proved to be 28 times faster, 26,000 times less expensive, and 100 times more sensitive than the current diagnostic tests. Andraka earned the fair's highest prize, including the $100,000 pot.

Sources: Associated Press (2)(3),,Chicago Sun TimesHarvard CrimsonMiami NewsSmithsonianTech News Daily,The Telegraph

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11 Brilliant Gifts for the Young Explorers in Your Life

If your favorite kids can’t stop asking “why,” if they love running their own experiments, and if they never stop learning new things, these 11 gifts are a great place to grow their curiosity even further.

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy. Thanks for helping us pay the bills!

1. FLACK KIT; $300

Imaginations will soar as high as this DIY airplane once it’s assembled. This kit comes with everything necessary to build this RC airplane, from the radio to the charger. All they'll need are a few simple tools, like a screwdriver, and your enterprising young engineer can pilot their first plane. No soldering of parts required.

Find It: Brooklyn Aerodrome


This deluxe building set from Wonderhood Toys—a company devoted to helping foster the next generation of women architects—includes 24 illustrated panels. The pieces can be connected together in different combinations in order to create a hotel building, complete with an elevator. The STEM-friendly kit also comes with two figurines, so that kids can play with their creation once they’re done designing and building it.

Find It: Wonderhood Toys


It might be too early give the younger set in your family a smart phone. Fortunately, the Fire Tablet is the perfect middle ground between allowing the curious kid in your family space to learn and explore on their own and being able to keep a close eye on what they’re doing. Amazon Freetime can be downloaded onto the budget-friendly Fire Tablet, which is a subscription program that only grants kids titles they’ve been given access to and allows parents to set daily screen time limits on the tablet.

Find It: Amazon


Designed by a NASA scientist who has led a major space mission, this award-winning board game introduces kids to space science ideas and concepts. As they compete, players tackle the in-game challenges of developing and launching various space missions. Other players may sabotage your space exploration attempts with government shutdowns and hardware memory swipes, reflecting the real-life struggles of launching a successful mission to space.

Find It: Amazon


Future coders and programmers can get started early with this caterpillar-shaped toy from Fisher Price. Kids learn while rearranging code-a-pillar’s body segments and figuring out what combination will make it move forward or backward, left or right.

Find It: Amazon


Help a young artist harness the power of the sun into prints. The instructions for this budget-friendly kit are simple: Set an object or transparency on the sunography fabric included in the kit, let the sun shine down, and then remove the object for the coolest tan line ever.

Find it: Uncommon Goods

7. LITTLE PASSPORTS SUBSCRIPTION BOX; $18 per month or $180 per year

Take your favorite adventurer on a once-a-month trip around the world without ever leaving home. This subscription box service introduces preschoolers to geography through themed lessons. (There's also an option for older kids.) The first box comes with an orange suitcase, world map, an activity booklet and passport stickers, and every monthly box after that contains activities and souvenirs surrounding that month’s theme, such as art, food, landmarks or celebrations.

Find It: Little Passports


It may be small, but this miniature 3D printer can whip out 6-in. creations at 100mm/second. It’s also easy to use, thanks to its 9-point calibration detection, which assures a level print bed. Your curious kid will also have access to loads of resources, like online courses and 3D modeling software specifically designed for beginners. Of course, if they want to hit print right away, there are thousands of 3D models available on the company’s website.

Find It: Amazon

9. AUTHOR'S KIT; $44

As every writer knows, nothing is more exciting than seeing your name in print for the first time. With each author’s kit, your young writer creates a story and dialogue to go along with a wordless illustrated book. Then, the company prints it and sends a copy, complete with author’s bio, to your doorstep. Every author’s kit also includes writing games, an official author’s certificate, and an idea pad to get them inspired.

Find It: Write Brain Books

10. MECCANOID G16; $145

Every tech whiz kid dreams of building their own personal robot, and now they can. MeccaNoid stands 4 feet tall and includes programmable LED eyes, voice recognition capabilities, and 10 motors, which allow it to smoothly move its arms, head, and feet. Although young programmers have three methods for programming the robot, MeccaNoid also comes with 3000 preprogrammed phrases.

Find It: Amazon

11. PROPS IN A BOX; $60

Help budding actors and directors get their movie or play off the ground with whimsical backdrops and quirky costumes. Each box has props for two distinct characters, a backdrop to hang, and access to the Props in a Box moviemaker app.

Find It: Props in a Box

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40 Educational Facts About Sesame Street
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Getty Images

On November 10, 1969, television audiences were introduced to Sesame Street. In the near-50 years since, the series has become one of television's most iconic programs—and it's not just for kids. We're big fans of the Street, and to prove it, here are some of our favorite Sesame Street facts.

1. Oscar the Grouch used to be orange. Jim Henson decided to make him green before season two.

2. How did Oscar explain the color change? He said he went on vacation to the very damp Swamp Mushy Muddy and turned green overnight.

3. During a 2004 episode, Cookie Monster said that before he started eating cookies, his name was Sid.

4. In 1980, C-3PO and R2-D2 visited Sesame Street. They played games, sang songs, and R2-D2 fell in love with a fire hydrant.

5. Mr. Snuffleupagus has a first name—Aloysius.

6. Ralph Nader stopped by in 1988 and sang "a consumer advocate is a person in your neighborhood."

7. Caroll Spinney said he based Oscar's voice on a cab driver from the Bronx who brought him to the audition.

8. In 1970, Ernie reached #16 on the Billboard Hot 100 with the timeless hit "Rubber Duckie."

9. One of Count von Count's lady friends is Countess von Backwards, who's also obsessed with counting but likes to do it backwards.

10. Sesame Street made its Afghanistan debut in 2011 with Baghch-e-Simsim (Sesame Garden). Big Bird, Grover and Elmo are involved.

11. According to Muppet Wiki, Oscar the Grouch and Count von Count were minimized on Baghch-e-Simsim "due to cultural taboos against trash and vampirism."

12. Before Giancarlo Esposito was Breaking Bad's super intense Gus Fring, he played Big Bird's camp counselor Mickey in 1982.

13. Thankfully, those episodes are available on YouTube.

14. How big is Big Bird? 8'2".

15. In 2002, the South African version (Takalani Sesame) added an HIV-positive Muppet named Kami.

16. Six Republicans on the House Commerce Committee wrote a letter to PBS president Pat Mitchell warning that Kami was not appropriate for American children, and reminded Mitchell that their committee controlled PBS's funding.

17. Sesame Street's resident game show host Guy Smiley was using a pseudonym. His real name was Bernie Liederkrantz.

18. Bert and Ernie have been getting questioned about their sexuality for years. Ernie himself, as performed by Steve Whitmire, has weighed in: “All that stuff about me and Bert? It’s not true. We’re both very happy, but we’re not gay,”

19. A few years later, Bert (as performed by Eric Jacobson) answered the same question by saying, “No, no. In fact, sometimes we are not even friends; he can be a pain in the neck.”

20. In the first season, both Superman and Batman appeared in short cartoons produced by Filmation. In one clip, Batman told Bert and Ernie to stop arguing and take turns choosing what’s on TV.

21. In another segment, Superman battled a giant chimp.

22. Telly was originally "Television Monster," a TV-obsessed Muppet whose eyes whirled around as he watched.

23. According to Sesame Workshop, Elmo is the only non-human to testify before Congress.

Photo of Elmo from 'Sesame Street'

24. He lobbied for more funding for music education, so that "when Elmo goes to school, there will be the instruments to play."

25. In the early 1990s, soon after Jim Henson’s passing, a rumor circulated that Ernie would be killed off in order to teach children about death, as they'd done with Mr. Hooper.

26. According to Snopes, the rumor may have spread thanks to New Hampshire college student Michael Tabor, who convinced his graduating class to wear “Save Ernie” beanies and sign a petition to persuade Sesame Workshop to let Ernie live.

27. By the time Tabor was corrected, the newspapers had already picked up the story.

28. Sesame Street’s executive producer Carol-Lynn Parente joined Sesame Workshop as a production assistant and has worked her way to the top.

29. Originally, Count von Count was more sinister. He could hypnotize and stun people.

30. According to Sesame Workshop, all Sesame Street's main Muppets have four fingers except Cookie Monster, who has five.

31. The episode with Mr. Hooper's funeral aired on Thanksgiving Day in 1983. That date was chosen because families were more likely to be together at that time, in case kids had questions or needed emotional support.

32. Mr. Hooper’s first name was Harold.

33. Big Bird sang "Bein' Green" at Jim Henson's memorial service.

34. As Chris Higgins put it, the performance was "devastating."

35. Oscar's Israeli counterpart is Moishe Oofnik, whose last name means “grouch” in Hebrew.

36. Nigeria's version of Cookie Monster eats yams. His catchphrase: "ME WANT YAM!"

37. Sesame Street's Roosevelt Franklin ran a school, where he spoke in scat and taught about Africa. Some parents hated him, so in 1975 he got the boot, only to inspire Gob Bluth’s racist puppet Franklin on Arrested Development 28 years later.

38. Our good friend and contributor Eddie Deezen was the voice of Donnie Dodo in the 1985 classic Follow That Bird.

39. Cookie Monster evolved from The Wheel-Stealer—a snack-pilfering puppet Jim Henson created to promote Wheels, Crowns and Flutes in the 1960s.

40. This puppet later was seen eating a computer in an IBM training film and on The Ed Sullivan Show.

An earlier version of this article appeared in 2012.


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