Pop Star Michael Jackson Influenced Academics, Received PhD

Pop star Michael Jackson influenced the fields of engineering, law, medicine, psychology and more, according to a Texas Tech University pop culture expert.

Pop star Michael Jackson, who died one year ago this week, not only changed music and pop culture, but he also impacted engineering, law, medicine, psychology and other academic fields, according to a Texas Tech University pop culture expert.

(Michael Jackson; Credit: Drew Cohen)

Rob Weiner, a pop-culture author and associate librarian in the Texas Tech Libraries, recently helped compile a bibliographic guide for a special issue of The Journal of Pan African Studies showing Jackson's influence into the often dusty halls of academia.

The list of scholarly papers and peer-reviewed articles, culled from more than 100 databases, found the King of Pop referenced in psychology, medical, chemistry, mass communications and even engineering journals.

For instance, researchers used Jackson to critique the media's handling of criminal cases. A 911 call made by Jackson prompted an article in Fire Engineering journal, while a British Medical Journal piece written after Jackson's death discussed ethical issues that arise when a patient is more powerful than the attending physician.

One chemistry professor argued that reframing popular songs such as "Billie Jean"

could help students understand difficult chemistry concepts.

"I knew that Jackson permeated pop culture, but academics can be kind of snooty about what they choose to study," Weiner said. "The fact that someone would take a Michael Jackson song and co-opt it as a means to convey chemistry concepts just shows the pervasiveness of Jackson's influence."

The below video, a compilation of Jackson images from Ebony Magazine, shows the pop star receiving his PhD. Few people remember that he was Dr. Jackson, having received this Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Fisk University.