When I read up the bibliography of the mathematicians and scientists in the early 19th to 20th century, I am always shocked at how they were able to graduate university with PhD(s) at such a young age.
For example, John Von Neumann graduated from two universities simultaneously at the age of 22 with two PhD degrees and critical papers published.
John Forbes Nash graduated with a PhD at 22 on game theory. Enrico Fermi finished school at 21 with thesis on X-ray diffraction. Kurt Gödel finished school at 23 with dissertation on predicate calculus. Abel finished at 20 with thesis on quintic equations. Galois never graduated but created a field of his own before dying at the young age of 20 and the list goes on and on...
I am not knowledgeable of the trend in the social sciences but I suspects much of the same.
- Can someone tell me if there has been a major shift in how university education is conducted such that university across the world takes longer to get through than it used to be
- or is it truly because these people are unusually talented and are able to get through university purely based on their almost unnatural abilities?
Most importantly (and relevant), why is there such a decline in these young PhDs (I've never heard of a professor at my university who graduated at 21) and is it still possible for people to graduate at such a young age nowadays?