You probably know him best as Ivan Drago in Rocky IV, but did you also know that the “Siberian Bull” has a masters degree in chemical engineering? Sure, Hans “Dolph” Lundgren is also a karate champion, accomplished musician, and an Olympic pentathlon team leader, in addition to being a multilingual, 6-foot-5 Swedish model and action-movie star … but it’s his scientific career that’s got us all jacked up today!
Born in 1957 in Stockholm to a language teacher and a government-employed electrical engineer/economist, Lundgren took up martial arts at an early age and soon began hitting the weights to leave his self-described “runt” status behind. While this commitment to physical fitness certainly paved the way for Lundgren’s later success in showbiz, he managed to keep up his routine while maintaining straight As throughout high school. His academic performance, coupled with a lifelong desire to travel to the United States, earned Lundgren numerous scholarships to attend Washington State University and Clemson University. Though his original plan was to be a doctor (he got into medical school but would have had to wait a year to start studying due to a backlog), he followed in his father and older brother’s footsteps by pursuing engineering, first earning a degree in chemistry from Washington State University.
Then, after taking a year off for mandatory service in the Swedish Marine Corps at the Amphibious Ranger School, Lundgren enrolled in Stockholm’s Royal Institute of Technology, where he graduated with a degree in chemical engineering, specializing in petroleum engineering. Lundgren spent much of the 1970s improving his martial arts skills and participating in international karate competitions, but in 1982, he earned a master’s degree in chemical engineering from the University of Sydney, while he was working as a bouncer to earn a living.
Even though he earned a prestigious Fulbright Scholarship to attend M.I.T. in 1983, fate intervened. Lundgren gave it the old college try (literally), but when superstar model Grace Jones hires you to be her bouncer/boyfriend, you say, “Yes!” In a chat with NPR, Lundgren explained leaving M.I.T. and the moment he knew that acting was the career path for him, despite all the success he’d had with his scientific pursuits at the time:
“The professors are waiting for the star student from Sweden, and then they see me ride past outside the window with Grace Jones in the back, all decked out in leather. They probably didn’t know what was going on.”
I think it’s safe to say that Lundgren made the right choice. Sure, science might have been deprived of a singularly brilliant mind, but without Ivan Drago, our world likely never would have known Dolph Lundgren, and we’d be the poorer for it. That’s not to say Lundgren has let his intellect go to waste, however. It may take him a little bit to warm up to this impromptu science quiz with Nerdist’s own Kyle Hill, but he clearly still has fun showing off his brainpower:
Which Secret Science Nerd would you like us to cover next? Let us know in the comments below!
Image: Magnet Releasing, Millennium Films