Hive Five: Brian May’s Other Careers

Brian May performs in London, May 2011. Photo: Dave M. Benett/Getty Images

Queen guitarist Brian May has been back and performing on stage a lot in the last two weeks, putting in a surprise cameo during Lady Gaga’s opening performance at the 2011 VMAs and playing guitar with My Chemical Romance during that band’s appearances at August’s Leeds and Reading Festivals in the UK. And on Sunday, May wrote a guest post for Google’s blog about his friend and bandmate Freddie Mercury, who would have been 65 on September 5th. But May’s areas of expertise extend far beyond Queen and those who want to cop some Queen sound; here five other jobs on May’s C.V. that’s been keeping him quite busy over the years.

1. Astrophysicist

May began work towards a Ph.D in astrophysics before Queen took off, co-authoring two papers in the early seventies before focusing on his band full time. In 2007, May returned to Imperial College London and submitted and successfully defended his 48,000-word thesis, “Radial Velocities in the Zodiacal Dust Cloud” and received his PH.D., more than 30 years after he began.

2. Editor and author

Even before May completed his thesis, he co-authored an astronomy book, titled Bang!: The Complete History of the Universe, with famed Brit astronomer Sir Patrick Moore. On September 1st, Astronomy Magazine announced that they had added May to their editorial advisory board, promising that his first piece in the magazine would appear in an upcoming issue.

3. Animal Activist

May, along with the rest of Queen, founded the AIDS charity Freddie For A Day after Mercury’s death in 1991. Currently, May’s biggest charity focus is Save Me, an animal welfare organization that is currently focused on keeping Britain’s ban on foxhunting. Normally a pretty nice guy, May called a Leicestershire County Tory official a “pathetic, arrogant, snivelling little dweeb” when the official wrote a editorial disparaging May’s stance against foxhunting.

4. Stereoscopy collector

Another one of May’s many interests is stereoscopy, a technique for creating 3-D images. In 2009 he published the book, A Village Lost and Found, on stereoscopy pioneer Thomas Richard Williams. May has also combined this interest with his expertise in astronomy, producing his own line of stereoscopic astronomy cards.

5. Guitar maker

May built his unique guitar, the Red Special, with his father when he was 16 years old. The guitar, made with household items including wood from a fireplace mantle, has been replicated many times. In 2001, May launched Brian May Guitars to personally take control of the design and manufacturing of the guitars. The guitar’s most imitated feature? Its built-in ability to feed back.

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