I was reading Mr Teriffic #1 (Sept 2011) and he says he claims to hold more degrees than most of the Harvard Professors combined.

How does he have these degrees? I would gage that his age is around the mid 30's. It takes at least 2 years (4 semesters) of work at any university to earn a degree there even with transfer work from other universities. So to earn as many as he claims, he would need to be in school for at least 20-30 years.

And that is only for undergraduate work.

For graduate and PhD work, most universities won't even accept any transfer work from other schools as most grad and doctoral programs are unique for each school.

Even if that was not an issue, and in the DC universe all classes are transferable to all schools, of the 14 PhD's that he holds, he lists them as

...two in engineering and physics also including doctorates and masters degrees in law, psychology, chemistry, political science, and mathematics.

Other than Math, engineering and physics; these subjects are not related at all, so classes wouldn't even be available for transfer if that's how he earned the degrees...

Its probably nit picking, but this issue is making me not really like Mr Teriffic, lol...

  • 1
    Your question's title reads "dozons"; were you intending to use creative spelling? :D And +1 for possibly nitpicking. :) – Peter Cassetta Sep 21 '11 at 15:12
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    @PeterDC Dyslexia ftw ;P – OghmaOsiris Sep 21 '11 at 15:22
  • I'm guessing he has such mental capacity that he was able to pursue multiple PhD programs simultaneously. – Jack B Nimble Sep 21 '11 at 15:38
  • @OghmaOsiris Well, creative spelling happens to the best of us! Dyslexia not required. :P – Peter Cassetta Sep 21 '11 at 15:41
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    Is it possible that some of his degrees were honorary? – Beofett Sep 21 '11 at 16:18

Large caveat: I don't know anything about Mr Terrific other than what's in the Wikipedia page.

There have certainly been children who have completed degrees very young, so if the requirement is only 20 to 30 years and he's in his mid 30s, then that's absolutely achievable (for a prodigy).

Although an undergraduate degree does normally take two or three years, it doesn't have to in special circumstances (e.g. someone that's exceptionally gifted), and it's certainly possible to do more than one at once, assuming again exceptional ability.

It's also possible, although rare, to also complete two PhDs simultaneously. I presume that Mr Terrific is meant to be more gifted than even the most amazing real-world prodigies, so (in theory, again requiring an astounding ability) 14 PhDs could be completed in 14 years. In many ways the largest challenge with doing concurrent PhD programs is the time requirement, so if his life allowed for sufficient time to be devoted to it then it's conceivable.

It's possible that some of the doctoral degrees are honoris causa (these would often be 'higher' doctorates, like Doctor of Science, rather than PhDs), especially if he has done significant industry, research, or philanthropic work. These could certainly be gained much more rapidly.

In general, this is a much more realistic possibility than most abilities that superheroes have.

  • There is also, and I'm shakey on the details, a physicist who wrote essentially 8 pages of maths, reducing the calculations for an electron microscope technique. This took him a few weeks, and he received a doctorate for this. I think this may have been de Broglie. – AncientSwordRage Oct 14 '12 at 12:35

There are different answers depending on the degree. The core problem is that no matter how fast you learn the material, there are various requirements that are not easily bent which take time.

Let's assume that Mr. Terrific learns so quickly that it takes him almost no time, and let's assume that he can read at ~10 pages per minute (a sizable book in an hour). Let's assume also that he's not going to cheat--if an assignment says "read book X", he'll actually read it rather than look up the Cliff Notes version, and that he's going to take all his tests and turn in all his homework. Let's assume he can type a page in two minutes and write one full of equations in ten. (These are all at or just past the limits of what people have been observed doing.)

  • Undergraduate degrees are based almost entirely on the quality of coursework. The classes I've taken generally require reading a dozen books and writing about 40 pages (for liberal-artsy subjects)--he should be able to do this in about 14 hours; or turning in a weekly homework set consisting of 1-2 pages full of equations and the like every week (for scientific subjects) plus ~8 hours of exams--this might take him as little as 10 hours. So he could mechanically finish 2-3 courses a week, on average. Lab classes take much more time: you simply must be there while you measure out chemicals and mix acids and so on, and these are generally scheduled to be about 40-60 hours that you can't cut short (call it an extra week for that one course). A typical undergraduate degree consists of about 30-40 courses, but you only need about 10-15 extra to get each extra major. So after the first degree, he could have added them on at a rate of about one every 200 hours or so, which he could probably do in a month. (Again, nobody could really do this, because this leaves no time at all for learning.)

  • Masters degrees consist of relatively little coursework if you already have an undergrad degree (maybe 1/2 as much as is required for a major), but that usually includes lectures from professors on their favorite topics, and you can't really skip those. Some disciplines require lab work, though, and this again cannot mechanically be cut that short because you have to physically move things (connect wires, mix liquids, plate bacteria, whatever). Without lab work, a month should be plenty; with lab work, six months is optimistic.

  • Ph.D. degrees vary based on country, but are predominantly original research. It's very difficult to get a Ph.D. in less than two years (due to the bulk generally required), but if you do work at the boundary of two or three fields, you could probably get multiple Ph.Ds at once without that much extra effort. The mechanical act of writing up a thesis isn't that time-consuming (a couple hundred pages at most, which should take him a only a few hours), nor are qualifying exams (a day or two at most, once you know the material). If Mr. Terrific were very clever in this regard--double up on engineering and chemistry (chemical engineering!), physics and engineering and mathematics (materials science!), psychology and political science, etc.., he could probably obtain at least one per year (at least if he had the background from masters degrees and therefore could skip any preliminary coursework).

  • Law degrees are specialized. You can't really do them in less than two years. Same thing with medical degrees. I don't think he has either; I think he has only academic degrees.

So, if he has 14 Ph.D.s (14 years) and masters degrees in all of them (7 years), and is 35 now, he would have had to have had all his undergraduate degrees done by age 14--no problem if he completed them at a rate of one per month. (A more pressing concern would be scheduling finals; he'd have to enroll in multiple different schools to be able to take the finals for more than about 20 classes per semester/quarter; that would slow him down to one degree every 3 months or so.)

Anyway, physically possible: yes.

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