I think Tom Lehrer is one of the funniest people ever alive. Which is surprising given that he is a mathematician. Lehrer is known for his witty, bitingly satirical, songs. A number of videos of Lehrer performing live have surfaced on Youtube. The man is a charismatic, charming, and irreverent performer.


The first Lehrer song I encountered (introduced to me by my PhD supervisor Aephraim Steinberg) is about the great Russian mathematician Nikolai Ivanovich Lobachevsky:

I am never forget the day I first meet the great Lobachevsky.
In one word he told me secret of success in mathematics. Plagiarize!

Plagiarize, Let no one else's work evade your eyes, Remember why the good Lord made your eyes, So don't shade your eyes, But plagiarize, plagiarize, plagiarize - Only be sure always to call it please 'research'.

The Elements

Tom Lehrer rapping before rapping was cool. The Elements has been covered by many people over the years. Be sure to check out this performance by Harry Potter Daniel Radcliffe on the Graham Norton Show.

New Math

Poking fun at the new math approach to teaching mathematics:

Now that actually is not the answer that I had in mind, because the book that I got this problem out of wants you to do it in base eight. But don't panic. Base eight is just like base ten really - if you're missing two fingers.

Derivative Song

There is some great footage of Lehrer performing in 1997 at Irving "Kaps" Kaplansky's 80th Birthday Celebration. Here he sings, amongst other things, about how to take a derivative. Short and sweet.

Also from the same concert is another clever math song There is a Delta for Every Epsilon.

Poisoning Pigeons in the Park

Not a science or math song (although it does mention cyanide), but it is one of my favourites.

All the world seems in tune On a spring afternoon, When we're poisoning pigeons in the park. Ev'ry Sunday you'll see My sweetheart and me, As we poison the pigeons in the park.

A Christmas Carol

With Christmas around the corner, I thought it fitting to wrap up with this final Lehrer song.

Angels we have heard on high,
Tell us to go out and buy.

Honorable Mentions

Here are some other Lehrer songs I recommend checking out: - The Vatican Rag - That's Mathematics - Odepius Rex - The Decimal Money System: Song played to a British audience poking fun at their complex money system. - The Wiener Schnitzel Waltz - The Masochism Tango - Pollution - Wernher von Braun - I Can't Think Why?: Funny satire of professors. - I Got It From Agnes

Amazon is selling The Tom Lehrer Collection on both CD and DVD.