The idea that there is a binary between talents in the arts and talents in scientific fields is something that is completely made up. The disciplines are often kept separate as a way to push kids in education towards one career or another, but plenty of people are good at both. And these artistic celebrities very much show that.
Dr Brian May
Queen’s Brian May is one of the world’s most renowned guitarists – he, together with the iconic Freddie Mercury, John Deacon, and Roger Taylor, changed music forever. Their first gig was at Imperial College London, where May was doing his PhD in astrophysics between 1970 and 1974 on zodiacal light. This is the faint glow, visible before dawn, due to the reflection of sunlight on interplanetary dust.
Brain May in 2019. Image credit: lev radin/Shutterstock.com
As the band reached international success in 1974, May abandoned his studies (but published two peer-reviewed papers). He went back to this work in October 2006 and finished his thesis the following year, putting together the analysis he did back in the 70s and work done in the intervening 33 years about the subject.
He’s also an animal rights activist, campaigning against fox hunting and badger culling in the UK.
From Leon to Thor, Portman is a household name known for incredible performances. She was Padme Amidala in the Star Wars prequel trilogy, and while filming those movies she was also able to study for and obtain a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Harvard University.
Natalie Portman in 2018. Image credit: Andrea Raffin/Shutterstock.com
Dr Ken Jeong
Jeong has played a variety of iconic comedy characters, from TV shows like Community to blockbuster movies like The Hangover and Crazy Rich Asians. But, before he started doing stand-up, he was a medical doctor, and he remains a licensed physician in the US, although he has stopped practising. His comedy series Dr Ken was based on his experience in medicine.
Ken Jeong in 2011. Image credit: Kathy Hutchins/Shutterstock.com
The iconic Phoebe from Friends, Valerie Cherish in The Comeback, and the fantastic Michele in Romy & Michele’s High School Reunion are only some of the fantastic roles Kudrow has played in her career. But, she also got bachelor of science in biology and worked for her father, contributing to research on left-handedness and cluster headaches.
Dr George Miller
Director George Miller has probably one of the most intriguing filmographies ever. He’s of course the director of the Mad Max series, including the critically acclaimed Mad Max: Fury Road. And he’s also the director of Happy Feet (and Happy Feet Two) and Babe: Pig in the City. If this is not enough to show that we contain multitudes, he actually studied medicine at the University of New South Wales and even completed a residency at Sydney’s St Vincent’s Hospital. He had won a short film competition while studying, and was working with filming crews even as he worked as a doctor.
George Miller in 2015. Image credit: magicinfoto/Shutterstock.com
Dr Dexter Holland
Holland is the lead singer of The Offspring, known for hits like ‘Pretty Fly For A White Guy’ and ‘Why Don’t You Get A Job?’ His musical career spans almost 40 years, having started in 1983. In 2017, he completed his PhD in molecular biology, focusing on microRNA-like sequences in HIV genomes, something thought to play a role in how the virus can avoid the immune system. And, he published peer-reviewed studies on the subject.
The Offspring performing; Holland is on the right. Image credit: Antonio Scorza/Shutterstock.com
Known around the world as his character Mr. Bean, Atkinson has been into science since school, where he got top exam scores. Unrelated to this: he went to school with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. He completed a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Newcastle, and then completed a master’s in the same subject at Oxford University. There, he embarked briefly on a doctoral program, but he had already begun acting and chose that career instead.
Atkinson in 2011. Image Credit: magicinfoto/Shutterstock.com
Simon & Garfunkel’s The Sound of Silence is one of the most iconic and moving folk rock songs of all time. And as the song was climbing the charts, Garfunkel completed a master’s and started the coursework for a doctorate in mathematical education. The success of the duo led him to drop out of the program, although he did some teaching.
Garfunkel in 1997. Image credit: Featureflash Photo Agency/Shutterstock.com
Bonus – Judith Love Cohen
Love Cohen was an accomplished engineer working for NASA during the Apollo years. Her work was instrumental in creating the abort-guidance system that was used to rescue the Apollo 13 astronauts. She ended up working on this engineering problem even from the hospital as she was going into labor. That day, she gave birth to actor and musician Jack Black.
Love Cohen sadly passed away in July 2016.