Tom Lehrer collides with the periodic table of the elements on YouTube


Cover to the original vinyl record, "An Evening Wasted with Tom Lehrer," containing his performance of his song, "The Elements."

Cover to the original vinyl record, “An Evening Wasted with Tom Lehrer,” containing his performance of his song, “The Elements.”

Great song, great table, entertaining mashup probably worthy of a more serious production; there are a lot of pictures of boxes on the periodic table.

Tip of the old scrub brush to Homeschool Stuff.

(Lehrer is a math instructor — he intentionally stalled out before getting his Ph.D. — who wrote a series of parody songs in the late 1950s and 1960s. There are three albums of his work, still available last time I checked. One legend is he stopped writing parodies a couple of decades ago, saying that satire was no longer possible after Henry Kissinger won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1973. A collection of his works was assembled into a hit review, Tomfoolery! in 1980; it opened in London, moved to New York, and had a pleasant run in several other venues. Much of his work touches on the scientific, or dives right in.)

(You recognize the tune, of course. It’s from the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta Pirates of Penzance, “The Major-General’s Song.”)

Almost immediate update: Oooh! Here’s an even more ambitious animation of a live performance:

6 Responses to Tom Lehrer collides with the periodic table of the elements on YouTube

  1. 6funswede says:

    ;-) You may have discovered this already, but you can find more Tom Lehrer videos here:


  2. shopping says:

    Ha ha, this is something I’ve got to see. Looks like it might be funny. I wonder why he deliberately stalled out? I guess he might have seen through the pretentiousness of these universities etc. Many of the intellectual guys do, and then drop out simply because they realise that they are on a different level. A more creative and higher level than what the university can often offer.


  3. […] Lehrer + periodic table = learning (redux) A commenter, Aoife,  pointed to another animation of Tom Lehrer’s “Elements Song.”  This one has the best […]


  4. Aoife says:

    I adore Tom Lehrer.

    Here is a (relatively) recent interview:

    And here is another animation of “The Elements”



  5. I didn’t know about this exponent called Lehrer before


  6. meeyauw says:

    Having just seen Pirates this past weekend, and having been a lifelong fan of Lehrer, I am wondering why I have been so dull as to not recognize the tune. I also thought (or rather, didn’t think, just assumed) that Lehrer was dead. So this post was quite a treat; thank you!


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