The Magnificent Tom Lehrer

Tom Lehrer “went from adolescence to senility, trying to bypass maturity.” He graduated Bachelor of Arts in mathematics from Harvard University, magna cum laude in 1946. He taught mathematics and other classes at MIT, Harvard, Wellesley, and the University of California, Santa Cruz. Lehrer is German for “teacher” — which is fitting in his case. He is 93 years old and still hangs out around UC Santa Cruz.

All that, and he’s a genius too. I have loved his songs for decades. Try this one on the chemical elements. The last line cracks me up:

These are the only ones of which the news has come to Harvard
And there may be many others but they haven’t been discovered

Man, the guy surely can speak fast. Daniel Radcliffe tried the song on BBC once and could not match Tom’s tempo. Moving on, here’s another favorite — “Poisoning pigeons in the park.”

If you enjoyed that, I am sure you’d like this little bit of introduction to a 1998 live performance of the song. Funny man.

Let me end this little tribute to Tom with a song about another legend — Werner von Braun, the Nazi rocket scientist who designed the V2 rockets for Hitler and later designed the Saturn V launch vehicle which carried the Apollo astronauts to the moon.

Well that’s it for now. I am in the San Francisco Bay area visiting friends for a few days. It’s good to be back in the old neighborhood. Right now I am at Sudipta and Suvagata’s home in Union City. Be well, do good work and keep in touch.


Author: Atanu Dey


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