Several famous actors, politicians, athletes, and musicians have furthered their education by earning doctorates and Ph.D.s. Some of these celebrities earned Ph.D.s in the arts, while others pursued scientific degrees. One famous comedic actress has a Ph.D. in neuroscience. This list of famous people with Ph.D.s is loosely ranked by fame and popularity.
Who is the most famous person with a Ph.D.? Martin Luther King, Jr. tops our list. The civil rights activist earned a Ph.D. in systematic theology from Boston University in 1955. His dissertation was entitled “A Comparison of the Conceptions of God in the Thinking of Paul Tillich and Henry Nelson Wieman.”
“The Big Bang Theory” actress Mayim Bialik earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience from UCLA. She wrote the book, Beyond the Sling: A Real-Life Guide to Raising Confident, Loving Children the Attachment Parenting Way in 2012.
Hunter S. Thompson
Author and Gonzo journalism founder Hunter S. Thompson had a Ph.D. in Journalism from Columbia University.
In 2007, more than 30 years after he started his studies, Queen guitarist Brian May earned a Ph.D. in astrophysics from Imperial College. He also served as Chancellor of Liverpool John Moores University from 2008 to 2013.
“The Big Bang Theory” actress Mayim Bialik earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience from UCLA in 2008. Her dissertation was called “Hypothalamic regulation in relation to maladaptive, obsessive-compulsive, affiliative, and satiety behaviors in Prader-Willi syndrome.”
The Offspring singer Dexter Holland has a Ph.D. in Molecular Biology from the University of Southern California. He has co-authored a paper called “Identification of Human MicroRNA-Like Sequences Embedded within the Protein-Encoding Genes of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus.”
Temple Grandin earned a Doctoral Degree in Animal Science from the University of Illinois in 1989.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Civil rights activist Martin Luther King, Jr. earned a Ph.D. in systematic theology from Boston University in 1955.
Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice earned a Ph.D. in political science from the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver in 1981.
Bad Religion musician Greg Graffin has a Ph.D. in zoology from Cornell University. The title of his dissertation was “Evolution, Monism, Atheism, and the Naturalist World-View: Perspectives from Evolutionary Biology.” Graffin has since taught science and evolution classes at both Cornell and UCLA.
Frank Beall Ryan is the only person with a Ph.D. in Mathematics to ever play in the NFL. After he was recruited by college coaches across the country, he declared a major in Physics at Rice University, becoming the first member of his family not to go to Yale. He later chose education over professional football – but was then allowed to enroll at both UCLA and UC Berkeley so he could complete his degree. Ryan played 11 seasons in the NFL – for the Los Angeles Rams, the Cleveland Browns, and the Washington Redskins. He later worked for the government, served as athletic director and math lecturer at Yale, and served on a number of business advisory boards.
Kermit the Frog
The Muppets star Kermit the Frog was given an honorary Doctorate of Amphibious Letters from Southampton College in 1996.
The Descendents musician Milo Aukerman has a Ph.D. in Biology from UC San Diego.
Robert Vaughn, who played Napoleon Solo in “The Man from U.N.C.L.E., earned a Ph.D. in Communications in 1970 from the University of Southern California. He later published his dissertation as a book: Only Victims: A Study of Show Business Blacklisting.