Laurent Simons, who is half-Belgian and half-Dutch, obtained a bachelor’s degree with distinction from the University of Antwerp in just 18 months.
It can be tough having high-achieving siblings. Every family gathering becomes a battle for which child is more successful or who’s smarter than who, and before you know it you’re fist-fighting your sister in the kitchen over whether Mahler was more influential than Pythagoras.
Well, just be glad you don’t have to invite Laurent Simons to Thanksgiving this year. This Dutch-Belgian wunderkind has not only completed a bachelor’s degree in physics, but he did so in half the time it usually takes and still managed to get the highest grade in his class.
At the age of 11.
“I find it flattering that people compare me with Einstein,” Simons told The Telegraph. “But I think everyone is unique. Einstein is just Einstein and I, Laurent, am just Laurent.”
As if that isn’t humiliating enough, this wasn’t even Simons’ first attempt at college. After completing high school by the age of eight, he originally enrolled in Eindhoven University in 2018 but dropped out when college officials refused his schedule. He then took some courses at the University of Ghent, before eventually transferring to the University of Antwerp, where he graduated this month.
Although this lost him the chance to become the youngest ever college graduate – that distinction remains with University of South Alabama Class of ‘94 alumnus Michael Kearney, who received a degree in anthropology at the age of ten – Simons is sanguine.
"I don't really care if I'm the youngest,” he told Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf. “It's all about getting knowledge for me.”
With diploma in hand, Simons’ next step is to officially start and complete his master’s degree, a University of Antwerp spokesperson told The Brussels Times. After that, the goal is a PhD.
“As well as his home country, Belgium, he will be studying in the US, Israel and the UK, too,” Simons’ father, Alexander, said. “Lots of the world’s best universities are located [in the UK] so [it] had to be on the list.”
And, at an age where most of us are just hoping to get through puberty unscathed, Simons has big plans.
Laurent’s mother, Lydia, has defended the family from accusations that her son should be having fun rather than studying.
“I can imagine that a lot of people think ‘leave him alone, he is still young’,” she said.
“But people who say that have not had a child like Laurent. Everyone, including psychologists, who want to give advice, just can’t, because there’s never been a case like this before”.
“Immortality, that is my goal,” he said, inadvertently revealing that he probably doesn’t read IFLS. “I want to be able to replace as many body parts as possible with mechanical parts.”
His vision of a cyborg-filled future isn’t just some vague notion, though – the miniature mastermind says he’s already mapped out the path to achieving his dream.
“Quantum physics – the study of the smallest particles – is the first piece of the puzzle,” he said. “I want to work with the best professors in the world, look inside their brains and find out how they think.”