The Elements by Tom Lehrer

Tom Lehrer used the Major-General's song from the 1879 comic opera The Pirates of Penzance. Click here to listen to the Major General song and you will hear the resemblance. Tom Lehrer published his song in 1959 when I was 8 years old. I discovered Tom Lehrer in the early 1970s when I was starting out my teaching career in Charlottesville VA at St. Anne's Belfield School and remember playing many songs for my students there in 1973-75. When I changed jobs and moved to Wooster School in Danbury CT in the late 70s, I recall performing a Tom Lehrer song called Poisoning Pigeons in the Park and Be Prepared for a school talent show with my nephew Seth and niece Lauren. I am still friends with a student who I taught there (Dafna) and found out recently that her son is a fan of New Math by Tom Lehrer. Accordingly, I have created this Web site for him! Happy Hanukah, Ronin!

More recently, I created and performed Poisoning Rodents on 129th and Park (based on Poisoning Pigeons of course) at a talent show at The Children's Storefront in 2007. So far I have memorized 5 of the 7 verses below although I am a bit shaky on the fifth one. I hope to post the first 5 verses as a video before Hanukah 2008 is over and hope to have all the verses done before I die! I am a slow learner and started this project over 7 years ago. Click here for the first 1.5 verses that I had recorded back in Lexington Massachusetts. I remember how excited I was that day. I never thought that I could learn all the verses but now that I have almost conquered 5, I think this project is possible! Steve Bergen 12/21/08

p.s. I heard from Dafna's dad (Ronin's grandfather) who actually knew Tom Lehrer. He writes "As a historical footnote. Tom Lehrer was my drama counselor at Camp Androscoggin in Wayne, Maine in 1947, '48. He had attended the camp as a camper some 12 or 15 years earlier. Our production of the year was Long Day's Journey Into Night which was pretty hysterical when performed by a group of 12-14 year olds. Mainly, however, he wrote and performed the same kind of songs he is famous for, satire and burlesque take-offs with great rinky dink piano accompaniments.  I remember several of them and they are still funny."

R This is the classic one by Mike Stanfill from that has been on the Web since the start of the century.
O This YouTube creation is sung by a four year old. It is not clear if there is anything that he is reading on the wall.
N This clever YouTube creation done by a girl with blindfold. This is the one that I am going to emulate when I do it although she is performing it with the music in the background which makes it easier!
I This YouTube creation includes pictures of many of the elements with Tom Lehrer's original which is 1 minute and 24 seconds. And here is one suggested by Francois Lang (former student of mine back in 73-75 in Charlottesville VA)
N Another clever one on YouTube, this one where the performer uses Helium to distort her voice.

There's antimony, arsenic, aluminum, selenium, 
And hydrogen and oxygen and nitrogen and rhenium, 
And nickel, neodymium, neptunium, germanium, 
And iron, americium, ruthenium, uranium.
Europium, zirconium, lutetium, vanadium, 
And lanthanum and osmium and astatine and radium, 
And gold, protactinium and indium and gallium, 
And iodine and thorium and thulium and thallium. 
There's yttrium, ytterbium, actinium, rubidium, 
And boron, gadolinium, niobium, iridium, 
And strontium and silicon and silver and samarium, 
And bismuth, bromine, lithium, beryllium, and barium. 
There's holmium and helium and hafnium and erbium, 
And phosphorus and francium and fluorine and terbium, 
And manganese and mercury, molybdenum, magnesium, 
Dysprosium and scandium and cerium and cesium. 
And lead, praseodymium, and platinum, plutonium, 
Palladium, promethium, potassium, polonium, 
And tantalum, technetium, titanium, tellurium, 
And cadmium and calcium and chromium and curium. 
There's sulfur, californium, and fermium, berkelium, 
And also mendelevium, einsteinium, nobelium, 
And argon, krypton, neon, radon, xenon, zinc, and rhodium, 
And chlorine, carbon, cobalt, copper, tungsten, tin, and sodium. 
These are the only ones of which the news has come to Ha'vard, 
And there may be many others, but they haven't been discavard. 

Below you will find a creative version of The Elements by Francois Lang, student of mine from 1973-1975 in Charlottesville VA, the town with 15 bytes in it, more than almost any other city in the US!

posted January 2009

There's WMD and Abu Ghraib, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan,
Where Bush and Cheney started wars without the slightest exit plan.
There's Donald Rumsfeld, Al Gonzalez, and the White House blowing smoke,
The GOP then ran McCain and Sarah Palin?what a joke!

There's Val'rie Plame, Guantanamo, diplomacy that grossly failed.	
Saddam Hussein, Karl Rove, Katrina, Michael Brown?he should be jailed.
Let's set aside the Constitution, disregard all human rights.
While royal presidential power soars to unknown dizzying heights.

Now AIG and Lehman Brothers, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac,
Bought toxic assets by the billion and then took a mighty whack.
Detroit with its lousy cars then threatened to go belly up,
But Henry Paulson bailed them out and told us taxpay'rs "Ante Up!"

There's waterboarding, wiretaps, Paul Wolfowitz and Larry Craig.
And climate change, Jack Abramoff, the Taliban and ideas vague,
The CIA and nine eleven, Kenneth Lay and Enron too,
Misunderestimation means that we the people got the screw.

There's Halliburton, medicare and Lewis Libby, terrorism.
Huge deficits, and fluorocarbons, anti-intellectualism,
No civil rights, but torture, lower taxes and creationism.
Enhanced interrogation and conservative immoralism.
Attorney firings, ANWR drilling, hanging chads, the NSA,
Indefinite detention, earmarks, ethanol and Tom Delay,
And FEMA trailers, big tobacco, stem-cell research, Tina Fey.
The subprime mortgage crisis, same-sex anti-gay!

Swift boating, Hatch Act violations, trashing emails, censorship,
Corruption, bal'nce of pow'r, Kyoto Protocols...dictatorship.	
The Y2K election, and the throt'ling of the FDA,
And greenhouse gasses, global warming. Who cares? Not the EPA!

Abuse of power, North Korea, Harriet Miers and Roe v. Wade.
And enemy combatants, Enron, polar bears and foreign aid,
And immigration, habeas corpus, propaganda bought and paid,
With mission wholly unaccomplished, Double-U, let's let you fade.
These aren't the only sordid reasons, Dubya, we won't MISS YA;
There're many obvious others why you're such a terrib'l FAIL YA.