Indian Genius Who Got His PhD Aged 22

Jul 4, 2020 5 comments
indian education system tathagat avatar tulsi story famous phd record holder

Yes Sheldon Cooper might be the reel life genius having received his PhD at age 16. But there are real life geniuses as well who often go unrecognized or get forgotten by the media and especially by the masses.

Indian scientist Tathagat Avatar Tulsi (b.1987) is one of the youngest people in the world to get a PhD in physics. He was selected to pursue the same from the reputed Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore at the age of 17.

The then dean of IISc when replying to a journalist's query described Tathagat as a "good boy, very lovable and working to achieve his goals."


In a 2014 TedX talk, Tathagat advocated for large scale liberalization of the Indian education system. "Our country has a lot of restrictions. For example, a student cannot write high school exam if his age be less than 14." He even joked, "The administrators always said to me don't jump classes; be a man not a monkey!"

Even so, Tathagat finished schooling by the age of 9, earned his BSc and MSc from Patna University aged 10 and 12 respectively. That was a Guinness World Record; the media claimed, "India has found her physics child prodigy."

indian education system tathagat avatar tulsi story famous phd record holder

But in order to sit his high school examination he had to fight a court case against the Central Board of Secondary Education; isn't that strangely odd?

Here, we value extraordinary dance and singing talent from early age, whether on TV competition shows or in feature films. But an exceptional academic talent such as Tathagat had had to go through legal route?

Which is probably why, back in 2010, Ministry of Science and Technology of the Indian government started a new program for gifted children called PRODIGY (promotion and development of India's gifted young) to replicate the western system.

In the same year, after submitting his PhD thesis on "Generalizations of the Quantum Search Algorithm" to IISc and collaborating with Computer scientist Lov Grover (inventor of Grover's algorithm) Tathagat was offered a position of Assistant Professor in IIT-Bombay at age 22 which he accepted. He also humbly welcomed the new initiative by the government.

More recently, in October 2019, his employment was terminated by IIT-B as Tulsi was absent since 2018. He claimed that the "climate" of Bombay made him sick and he wanted to be transferred to IIT Delhi (which was not possible since every IIT is an independent institution). He wrote to the current Prime Minister of India in May and June of 2019 but to no avail.

From a childhood prodigy fighting court case to completing his PhD from one of the best universities in the world then getting hired by India's premier technical institute to his contract getting terminated. Physicist Tathagat Avtar Tulsi has so far lived a life worthy of a film adaptation.

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