Queen Guitarist, Under Pressure No More, Finally Earns Academic Crown

August 24, 2007

“It’s Done,” the entry on Brian May’s Web site proclaimed today. Nearly 37 years after beginning work on his dissertation in astronomy at London’s Imperial College, the guitarist for Queen successfully defended his 48,000-word thesis, “Radial Velocities in the Zodiacal Dust Cloud,” in a three-hour oral examination.

Mr. May’s detour from academe began at Imperial when a dental student, Roger Taylor, responded to an ad for a drummer he had placed on the college’s message board.

Rock history was made, but astronomical advances were deferred. On Thursday, a month after completing fieldwork at an observatory in the Canary Islands, Mr. May earned his doctorate, which will be officially conferred in a ceremony next spring. His two examiners gave him a Category 2 grade.

“I understand pretty much nobody gets a 1st category — which is ‘This is perfect — here’s your Ph.D.,’” Mr. May explained on his Web site. “Mine is ‘We like it. Make these adjustments, and it’s yours.’” Mr. May celebrated, not with a night at the opera, as one classic Queen album would have it, but, perhaps more appropriately, with a night at a Hard Rock Café with his family and professors. —Aisha Labi