Lifestyles of the Rich, Famous and Surprisingly Smart

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Danica McKellar of Wonder Years fame has written a textbook. Math Doesn't Suck encourages middle school girls to master mathematics. McKellar is even tutoring students through her website.

This got us thinking: If Winnie Cooper could grow up to be a math whiz, there must be similar stories about the academic pursuits of other famous people. With help from research editor Kara Kovalchik, we've compiled a list of twenty celebrities with impressive degrees and/or unexpected majors.

dolph.jpgDolph Lundgren is nothing like Ivan Drago, the mindless Russian machine he portrayed in Rocky IV. He's not even Russian. (He's a Swede.) Dolph has a masters degree in chemical engineering from the University of Sydney. He was even awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to M.I.T., but left after two weeks to pursue acting in New York. And he speaks five languages: Swedish, English, German, some French and some Japanese.

degree_BrianMay.jpgQueen guitarist Brian May recently earned his PhD in astronomy from London's Imperial College, handing in his thesis, "Radial Velocities in the Zodiacal Dust Cloud." He's written a book called Bang! The Complete History of the Universe. May is also an active blogger, with a page on his official website called Brian's Soapbox.

cindycrawford.jpgCindy Crawford may not have her PhD. Or a masters. OK, she didn't even finish her freshman year of college. But up until that point, she was quite the scholar. Crawford was DeKalb High School's valedictorian and earned a scholarship to Northwestern, where she briefly studied chemical engineering. Then the whole modeling thing took off. The lesson: stay in school, unless you're supermodel hot.

Keep reading for Borat, Blossom and Hugh Hefner.

borat3.jpgBefore Ali G and Borat, Sacha Baron Cohen studied history at Christ's College, Cambridge, where he wrote his thesis on the role of Jews in the American civil rights movement. Before breaking into the fake-interviewer business, he worked for investment powerhouses JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs.

greggraffin.jpgGreg Graffin formed Bad Religion with a few high school classmates when he was 15. He is credited with helping rejuvenate the Los Angeles punk scene in the mid-1980s. And when he's not touring, he's a professor of life science at UCLA. Graffin "“ sorry, Dr. Graffin "“ earned a PhD in biology from Cornell. His thesis was titled "Monism, Atheism and the Naturalist Worldview: Perspectives from Evolutionary Biology."

mayim.jpgWe don't set the bar too high for child stars. Avoid jail and rehab and exceed all expectations. But Mayim Bialik has kept her name out of the tabloids and her nose in the books. The former Blossom star is closing in on her PhD in neuroscience at UCLA. She's writing her thesis on Prader-Willi syndrome, a strange DNA disorder that forces its victims to go crazy and destroy their homes in a desperate search for food.

More tidbits about the academic lives of celebrities:

Art Garfunkel has a masters in mathematics from Columbia University.

Frank Capra graduated from Caltech (then named the Throop College of Technology) in 1918 with a degree in chemical engineering.

Jay Leno received his BA in speech therapy from Emerson College in 1973.

Gene Simmons of KISS studied education at Richmond College on Staten Island, and spent a stint teaching elementary school in Spanish Harlem. He also was a personal assistant for an editor at Vogue.

"Weird Al" Yankovic graduated as his high school's valedictorian at age 16, and later received his degree in architecture from California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo.

Mira Sorvino graduated magna cum laude from Harvard with a degree in East Asian studies.

"¢ Milwaukee Brewers lefty Chris Capuano graduated from Duke University with a degree in economics. He was a member of Phi Beta Kappa.

"¢ Two-time Best Actress Oscar winner Jodie Foster earned a degree in literature from Yale. She graduated magna cum laude.

"¢ Although he didn't graduate, Ashton Kutcher studied biomedical engineering at the University of Iowa.

Mick Jagger attended the London School of Economics before dropping out to give music a try.

Steve Martin studied philosophy at California State University at Long Beach before transferring to UCLA and switching his major to theater studies. He left school to focus on comedy.

Hugh Hefner was a psychology major at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and he graduated in under three years.

"¢ And let's finish things up by coming full circle. Danica McKeller's Wonder Years co-star, Fred Savage, graduated from Stanford University in 1999 with a degree in English. His brother Ben, of Boy Meets World fame, graduated from the same institution in 2004.

I'm sure there are scores of other celebrities with impressive (or unexpected) degrees or majors. If you know of one, add to the list.

September 7, 2007 - 8:01pm
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