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Badass Bookworm: Real Life
  • Due to the combination of mandatory military conscription by the state and the cultural emphasis on education in Judaism, Israel produces a number of these.
  • T.E. Lawrence. Yes, that Lawrence. Who by chance is also an example in film. There was also a badass Czech/Austrian theologist working against him.
  • Ludwig Wittgenstein. He's commonly known as an outstandingly influential philosopher. What's less known is that he was also an exceptionally brave soldier in WWI (albeit one fighting for The Empire).
  • Neil deGrasse Tyson. Astronomer, Director of the Hayden Planetarium, wrestler and boxer in school and still, as he told an interviewer "a nerd who could kick your butt."
  • Jamie Hyneman of MythBusters is also a brainy geek who's repeatedly demonstrated his excellent badassery with firearms (for example, he did the Scope Snipe test, firing freehand without a scope on his rifle). In another episode, he smashed the locks off a door, barehanded. Plus calmly reporting the situation with a steady voice while being buried alive. Also worth noting that before he was in Mythbusters, he was an owner of a Caribbean salvage diving company, animal wrangler and a wilderness survival expert. He also has a bachelors degree in Russian linguistics.
  • Daniel P. Bolger, writer and soldier.
  • Dr. Liviu Librescu, Romanian-born Holocaust survivor, scientist and academic professor. During the Virginia Tech massacre, Librescu personally kept the door shut to prevent gunman Seung-hui Cho from entering the classroom while his students escaped out the windows. He was shot through the door five times before finally succumbing to a shot to the head. He had a history, since surviving the Holocaust takes a Determinator in itself...
  • Perhaps the best example though was Alfred the Great, King of Wessex and arguably the founder of England. He was bookworm to the Nth degree and he was badass to the Nth degree. He was a great scholar, fond of theology, philosophy, and the classical lore from the Romans and before. He was also a great warrior and could earn the devotion of his followers at a time when kings were expected to fight beside their men. He codified laws, encouraged learning, and organized a military system that could protect against the Danes.
  • Henry Knox. He started out as a bookseller in Boston, who read all the books on military science as they came in. When the Revolutionary War broke out, Washington put him in charge of the artillery corps. He moved sixty tons of cannon overland, through mountains, from Ft. Ticonderoga to Boston and drove the British fleet from the harbor. Knox shared Washington's boat during the crossing of the Delaware and wound up as the nation's first Secretary of War.
  • Roald Dahl was an Ace Pilot in the Second World War. Yes, THAT Roald Dahl. What is arguably more badass is when the war broke out he had to round up all the German people in the town in Africa where he lived. He managed to stop them from escaping with only one death on his hands. Oh, and he did this without any training, being told it was his responsibility only the day before.
  • Most African-American civil rights leaders fit this trope.
    • Frederick Douglass taught himself to read and was an excellent orator. He also gave such a bad beatdown to a slavedriver known as "The negro breaker" in defense of himself that the slavedriver never tried to raise a hand against him again.
    • Malcolm X.
  • While he never really went out ass-kicking, the fact remains that Niels Bohr, second most important theoretical physicist of the 20th century, aka "The Great Dane", was a huge, two metres tall athlete known for always taking two stairs at once even in old age. Ernest Rutherford, an experimental physicist with a pronounced dislike for theoreticals once remarked, "Bohr is different. He plays football."
    • Niels Bohr was the model for Poul Anderson's character of Holger Dansk in Three Hearts and Three Lions, a big burly American Football-playing Danish-born university grad, who is thrown across the dimensions into a parellel Earth, and uses his scientific skills to work out how to kill dragons and what really happens when a troll is converted to rock at the onset of sunlight. (transmuting carbon to silicon creates a huge amount of radioactivity as a byproduct)
  • Leonardo da Vinci was allegedly able to bend iron horseshoes straight. He also used a gun of his own design to kill soldiers attacking the city of Florence from 300 yards away. Good shooting even compared to modern day soldiers. Leonardo da Vinci was an artist first and foremost and lived on the art commissions of wealthy patrons. However, in his resume to Cesare Borgia he did rather focus on his engineering skills, throwing in painting as an afterthought.
  • Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain is a particularly striking example of this trope. Before he joined the Union Army in the civil war, he was a professor at Bowdoin College. At the Battle of Gettysberg he commanded the 20th Maine. Not only was he awarded multiple honors for bravery in combat, including the Medal of Honor, but he also received wounds that should have been fatal, not once but twice, and was wounded six times total during the war. He survived the war and went back to teaching. By the end, he had taught every subject except mathematics.
  • Francis Lovell, later Viscount Lovell. Boyhood best friend of Richard III, he was as much a bookish scholar as Richard was an accomplished warrior. However, upon hearing that Richard had been killed in Battle against Henry Tudor, he proceeded to lead a revolution against Tudor in order to put Richard's heir on the throne, including leading the army into battle. The fact that the revolt ultimately failed does not in any way decrease the utter awesome badassedry of that.
  • Socrates served as a foot soldier in three major Athenian campaigns. He once escorted Alcibiades, one of his superiors, through a chaotic battle back to safety by himself. He gathered a number of hoplites around him, made faces at the Theban cavalry until they decided to seek easier prey. Then he walked away. The other Athenians either ran or died.
  • Plato was a champion wrestler. He might count instead as a Genius Bruiser, however: "plato" means "broad," and he was named such for his broad shoulders.
  • Annmaria Rousey Demars. Ph.D.'s in both engineering and statistics. Barely over five feet tall. Judo gold medals. And she's obviously a great teacher too: her daughter Rhonda Rousey won a gold in judo at the Beijing Olympics. Do NOT mess with this family!
  • Sir Richard Francis Burton. In this case, truth is far more awesome than fiction.
  • Insofar as his appearance on film is concerned, Lieutenant John Chard, (British Army) Royal Engineers probably qualifies. Oh, you don't know who he is? Well, there's this little confrontation called the Battle of Rorke's Drift where about 100 English soldiers held off four thousand Zulus. John Chard was the commanding officer during the battle.
  • Saxton Pope was a doctor and surgical instructor at the University of California who became close friends with Ishi, the last member of almost certainly the last 'uncontacted' First Nation tribe. He picked up a plethora of ancient skills from him, wrote the book on modern fieldcraft and bowhunting, and killed grizzly bears using home-made bows and arrows.
  • Siegfried Sassoon: These days, his reputation is as an anti-war war poet. What's often forgotten is that he was just as good at waging war as writing about it, including a single-handed attack on a German trench (which got him a medal) and numerous other near-suicidal exploits. Unlike fellow warrior-poet Wilfred Owen (equally brave and equally decorated), he managed to die of old age.
  • Abraham Lincoln, well-known as a bookworm, is often cited as performing ridiculous feats of physical strength with little to no effort. And then there was the time he was challenged to a duel of his choice, and he chose broadswords in a pit. He also fought pirates and worked for a time as an amateur wrestler, during which time he reportedly invented the choke-slam when an opponent stomped on his feet.
  • Dr. Ruth Westheimer — yes, THAT Dr. Ruth — was a sniper. At 16. She had joined Haganah, an underground Jewish military, where they discovered she was deadly accurate with a sniper rifle and with tossed hand grenades.
  • Modern snipers in general are this, due to how much mathematics are involved to make shots from such a ridiculous distance. It's not Improbable Aiming Skills that make them this, it's their high-powered rifle and their ability to effectively weaponize math.
  • Isaac Barrow, Newton's old teacher and predecessor as Lucasian Professor of Mathematics, was a brawler who, while traveling in the Middle East, was credited with driving off pirates who attacked the ship on which he was a passenger with his ferocious swordsmanship.
  • Moshé Feldenkrais. Physicist, WWII Naval Science officer, Judo expert.
  • Brigadier General Nathanael Greene, the youngest general in the US Continental Army at 33, learned everything he knew about warfare from books. That he taught himself to read. He went on to join the revolutionary effort despite a strong limp and a nonviolent religious background-people called him "The Fighting Quaker"
  • Kim Komenich, professor and photo journalist. Also the bane of stupid bank robbers.
  • Pioneers of aeronautics mostly were their own test pilots, with everything this implies: wings of wood and tarp, balls of tool steel. One of last cases was R.E. Alexeev, constructor of Soviet WIGs. Once an Eaglet landed on the rocks. In a later practice flight the pilot slams this machine in a wave when landing. Some instruments in the cockpit shut down, but takeoff engines on the nose are still heard. Alexeev jumps the controls and sets the remaining engines to full throttle, then takes one look from a top hatch, says "To the base." and takes the place of the pilot. They run about 40 km like this, land, then commission members disembark and discover what this was about — the tail is broken off.
  • Howard Hughes. Many of the airplanes he designed were built from his experience as an airplane racer, and he had little former education in how to build or design aircraft, but went on to make some of the most influential designs in post WW1 aviation. When he crashed the XF-11 in 1946, he ended up grievously injured and confined to a bed. Deciding he did not like the bed, he ended up dictating a design that had hot and cold running water and push-button adjustments. He was also the archetypal millionaire playboy. Bruce Wayne and Tony Stark were both heavily inspired by Hughes.
    • Not to mention being involved in a lot of clandestine espionage projects for US government, possibly using his supposed wackiness as cover. One of his well-known exploits involve an attempt to retrieve a Soviet nuclear submarine that sank after an accident in deep waters in the Pacific while claiming to explore possibility of mining the ocean depth for valuable minerals. The project did not succeed, or that is the official word at any rate.
  • Alexander de Seversky, eventually an American aviation engineer, airplane manufacturer, and an influential air power theorist. He began his career as possibly the first Russian fighter ace, flying for the Tsar's (naval) air force during World War I, despite losing a leg in air combat.
  • F. Story Musgrave: computer scientist, chemist, mathematician, medical doctor and biophysicist. Went into space six times. On his last mission, he stood up during re-entry to film, taking 1.7 Gs. He was SIXTY-ONE at the time. Also went back to school to get a master's degree in Literature so he could properly express what he'd seen and done.
  • Robbing a bunch of gamers? How hard could it be to take on a bunch of nerds. Just watch out for the guy with a DS.
  • Alexander Hamilton and Nathan Hale.
  • Former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson comes across as a quiet smart guy in interviews. He climbed Mt. Everest with a broken leg.
  • Wong Fei-hung. Not only was he a doctor, but he ran a militia too.
  • A.J. Ayer. To quote from his biography: "Ayer was . . . chatting to a group of young models and designers, when a woman rushed in saying that a friend was being assaulted in a bedroom. Ayer went to investigate and found Mike Tyson forcing himself on a young south London model called Naomi Campbell . . . Ayer warned Tyson to desist. Tyson: 'Do you know who the f$*k I am? I'm the heavyweight champion of the world.' Ayer stood his ground: 'And I am the former Wykeham Professor of Logic. We are both preeminent in our field; I suggest that we talk about this like rational men.' Ayer and Tyson began to talk. Naomi Campbell slipped out." He was 77 at the time.
  • There was a US Navy exercise which involved having a team Navy SEALs attempt to take over an amphibious assault ship on their own. They had succeeded in taking over most of the ship and had neutralized most of the security, but were held off by the ship's engineers who armed themselves with tools and pieces of pipe and used safety netting to restrict the areas of approach.
  • Confucius. Despite being the founder of a notoriously dorky, scholarly philosophy, he was said to be tall and strong. The arts he taught included rites, music, arithmetic, literature, archery, and chariotry, the last two being martial in nature. Eastern ideals of “warrior-gentleman” such as Japan’s “bunbu ryōdō” were influenced by this.
  • Uwe Boll is known for challenging critics who pan his films to boxing matches because he apparently has some boxing experience. He tried to challenge gaming critic Seanbaby to a match, but backed off when he learned that Seanbaby was a fairly large kickboxer.
  • As it is mandatory for men to serve in the Army in Finland (nowadays there's also civil service though), the majority of Finnish men have military training and skills, no matter what they do. Finnish president Mauno Koivisto served as a ranger squad leader in the long range troops of Lauri Törni - later known as Larry Thorne. Koivisto holds the degree of Doctor in Sociology.
  • Leon Trotsky was an intellectual with no military experience, buy still managed to found the red army and lead it to victory against its many enemies. A few times he even got personally involved, mainly by rallying fleeing red army soldiers. According to the historian Paul Johnson, Trotsky seriously pissed off the rest of the Politburo by reading novels during the meetings instead of discussing business. Now that's a real bookworm. He even managed to pin his assassin while an ice pick stuck out of his head.
  • Eric Greitens is a Rhodes scholar with a doctorate in politics from Oxford University who wrote his dissertation on how humanitarian organizations can best help children affected by war. After he got his Ph.D., he decided he was up for another challenge, so he became a Navy SEAL.
  • Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords is a wonkish bookworm Fulbright scholar with a master's degree from Cornell University. She's also married to an equally Badass Bookworm astronaut and test pilot who has flown in combat, and she enjoys fixing her own cars, riding and racing motorcycles, and taking part in a little roller derby now and then. Oh, yeah, she also survived a bullet to the brain in an assassination attempt and is making what doctors have called a remarkable and miraculous recovery. Though many patients describe rehab as the hardest thing they've ever done, Giffords decided her rehab regimen was "too wimpy" and designed a more rigorous plan. Unfortunately, Congresswoman Giffords has been unable to return to work and has had to resign her seat in Congress, but that doesn't make her and her amazing feat of recovery any less badass. It just makes her human.
  • Marxist revolutionary Ernesto 'Che' Guevara, MD; also a literary and philosophical commentator.
  • Due to importance put on both theory and praxis, most of Bolsheviks fitted this trope: for example, Lenin was the leader of the Red October and the one who described imperialism from a Marxist point of view (that's why it's called Marxism-Leninism now). But the most egregious example was probably Andrei Zhdanov, who was both the head of the reorganization of Soviet philosophy, art and literature and the man behind the defense of Leningrad during WW2.
  • George Scovell, cavalryman and intelligence officer.
  • Frederick The Great of Prussia wrote music, poetry, history, political propaganda, satires etc. as well as textbooks on warfare (including an art of war written entirely in verse) and an attempt to rebut The Prince. And he personally commanded the Prussian army through some of the bloodiest and most hard-fought campaigns of the 18th century. His brother, the well-read and somewhat short prince Heinrich (Henry) was another such example. His brother Frederick called him the only commander of the Seven Years' War who did not make a single mistake.
  • Gerhard von Scharnhorst reorganized the Prussian army for the Wars of Liberation. Many other officers looked down on him because of his lowly peasant origins, his unassuming appearance (in particular his skinny legs) and because he was best known for writing several textbooks and his teaching at Hanoverian and Prussian military schools. However, he relished getting into combat, was wounded several times, picked up a musket so he could be the last officer to leave the battlefield after the defeat of Auerstedt (1806) and died because he started making long journeys after being wounded at Großgörschen (1813). His top student Carl von Clausewitz was another example.
  • Louis Nicolas Davout certainly looked the part, being bald and having to wear glasses because of his myopia. Still he was one of Napoleon's toughest lieutenants, earning the sobriquet "the Iron Marshal".
  • Advanced practitioners of Historical European Martial Arts may become this; since the martial arts in question are revivals of lost styles via study of the period fighting manuals, any practitioner who seeks proper understanding must read at least a few different manuals of one style for the sake of context and technique verification.
  • Jacques Cousteau developed his passion for undersea exploration and perfected modern scuba-diving apparatus as an officer in the French Navy during World War II...while also leading commando operations against Axis intelligence operatives and helping to bring the French fleet onto the Allied side. Also notable in that his home was directly opposite that of Admiral Darlan, Prime Minister of the Vichy government.
  • Another entry from France: Marcel Marceau was a member of the French Resistance who practiced mime as a means of keeping Jewish children quiet as he and his brother smuggled them into Switzerland. It's fair to say that there are a few people out there today who don't hate mimes as a result.
  • Cao Cao, immortalized in the Romance of the Three Kingdoms. He was, in reality, not just a warrior and a ruler, but also an accomplished poet. He also wrote some commentary on Sun Tzu's The Art of War. Some records depict him as taking time to read every day, even when on military campaign.
  • Sun Tzu himself is one of the greatest Badass Bookworms in history. His writing reflects the basic idea that battles are won with the mind and not with brute strength, and he is saidnote  to have put these lessons to practical use as a successful military commander.
  • Cory Booker. Stanford graduate, Rhodes Scholar who attended Oxford, owner of a Doctorate from Yale Law School, mayor of Newark, NJ... and guy who ran into a burning building to save people trapped inside.
  • Many Roman emperors were known for being both conquerors and philosphers, especially Marcus Aurelius and Julian the Apostate.
  • Contrary to popular belief, there are a number of intelligent football players. For instance, there's current Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, who has in architecture from Stanford. Perhaps most revealingly, supposed "thug" Richard Sherman (notoriously dirty and politically controversial cornerback on the Superbowl-winning 2013 Seattle Seahawks) has a Master's in Communications (incidentally, also from Stanford; his and Luck's time even overlapped).
    • Sadly, plenty of people are willing to label black people thugs in general.
  • John "Jack" R. Horner, the American Paleontologist, famous for his groundbreaking theories on dinosaur maternal care and his base breaking theories on Tyrannosaurs eating habits, was a Force Recon Marine in Vietnam for 14 months, starting in 1966.
  • At 1.5 meters tall with a slender built, Philippine national hero Jose Rizal is this, The Napoleon, and a Pintsized Powerhouse. He is a polymath, a gym buff, and a fencer. He is known for his novels Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo, numerous sculptures, and insects named after him, among many other things he has achieved in his short life.
  • The majority of people who work for the FBI, CIA, or any intelligence agency in the world. Not only do you have to have above average intelligence to even qualify to work for them, but after you become accepted into the job you have to go through rigorous physical training every month, or even every week to keep yourself in shape. Operatives especially have to keep themselves and their bodies well-built and muscular, seeing as how they often put themselves in harms way all the damn time.
    • This also holds true for many special operations units. While they do have to be in incredible physical condition, their training is frequently described as being primarily a mental test - which makes sense, given the huge breadth of skills each man has to master. Every soldier in the US Army Special Forces (the Green Berets), for instance, has to master at least one foreign language just to get the job in the first place, to say nothing of learning advanced emergency medicine or applied chemistry & physics.
    • The Military Channel series Surviving the Cut, which looks at the selection process for elite American military units demonstrates this. The Special Forces episode showed that one of the toughest challenges faced by the candidates wasn't hauling a 440 pound barrel several miles: it was designing the jury-rigged cart they'd use to haul it.
  • Given how many military people of all branches have master's degrees or higher, examples could go on all day. In fact, anyone in a military "technical" field, given how much material they must commit to memory. Especially pilots. They practically get a degree in aeronautical engineering before ever planting their butt in a seat. Even Dubya. Even in general this holds true: considering how the military is much more technical, computerized, and robotic in many ways nowadays, you don't just need to be an ass-kicker anymore, you also need to be a techno whiz.
    • US Navy and Air Force senior NCO's (E-7, E-8, E-9) are required to complete at least an Associate's degrees(and generally won't promote beyond E-7 without a Bachelor's or higher)
    • Officers of all branches of the US armed forces are required to be college graduates, though you can also qualify for said promotion or officer's commission by getting a degree in General Studies, which is essentially getting a degree in "I don't know what I want to be when I grow up." (This includes pilots. Aeronautical degrees are NOT a prerequisite to getting your wings.)
    • By the time an Intelligence Analyst enlisted in the US Army finishes his Advanced Individual Training, he's received the equivalent of a Bachelor's Degree in Military Science, as well as a second Bachelor's Degree worth of training in Military History, and a third one in Games Theory. And his rank, on average, will only be Private First Class. There is a reason only 15% of all trainees who enter the Intelligence Analyst training program make it to graduation.
  • Bruce Lee was not a just a master martial artist, he was also a graduate of the University of Washington with a degree in drama and wrote books about the philosophy of martial arts. He was also a pioneer in fitness and nutrition, which were not quite exact sciences in the 1960s. According to The Other Wiki, he also wrote poetry.
  • Alexander the Great is a preeminent example of the Badass Bookworm. Most people know him as just the conqueror, but the kid was educated by Aristotle and managed to impress foreign dignitaries with his genius. He outdid his much more experienced father in generalship when he was just 18. He then proceeded to create one of the largest land empires in history. A personal favorite story: after his conquests in Persia, part of his spoils was a beautiful chest. He set it aside to carry his equally beautiful and painstakingly written copy of Homer's poetry, a gift from Aristotle.
  • The Three (four) Musketeers. Yes they were real people:
    • Charles Ogier de Batz de Castelmore, Comte d'Artagnan, spy, diplomat, fencer and obviously musketeer.
    • Armand, Seigneur de Sillègue, d'Athos, et d'Autevielle
    • Henri, Seigneur d'Aramitz
    • Isaac de Porthau, Musketeer, later Secretary of the Parliament of Béarn.
  • Miyamoto Musashi, renowned samurai ronin, swordmaster, strategist, author of "The Book of Five Rings".
  • The ideal of the samurai was this: A physically capable fighter, but also skilled in the sciences and humanities (such as they were in medieval Japan). Few lived up to the ideal, but it was still the ideal.
  • Rugby Union players tended to be this. Because it was an amateur only sport until the 90s, causing the need to have another job on the side, and because the need to be physically build help them from starting their professional career after 20 (contrary to european football players who start it before finishing high school), and because the British Gentleman tradition is still in play, many rugbymen are college educated and work in intellectual fields after retirement. For instances, The Underwood brothers were both aircraft pilot and the Stade Français of Paris had, at some point, one physician and two physiotherapists among its players.
  • A less famous example. This doctor was attacked in the sea by a shark. After initially panicking, he got a knife out and started stabbing it repeatedly until it decided that being shanked wasn't worth the meal. He then swam back to shore with an injured leg, fixed up his injuries by himself, and went to the pub for a well deserved beer. Only after the beer did he go to hospital, and he was back to work after a day or two of recovery.
    • Amusingly, the pub almost kicked him out for bleeding on the floor.
  • Former NBA star Dikembe Mutombo. He initially came to Georgetown on a scholarship to study medicine, and was only recruited to play basketball after arriving on campus (due to being 7'2"). He also speaks 9 languages fluently and is a well-known humanitarian.

Western AnimationBadass Bookworm    

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