Words and music by Tom Lehrer

copyright (c) 1951

This song is available on any of the Tom Lehrer albums shown below. The lyrics used for the Physical Revue are at the bottom of the page.

Trivia from Tom Lehrer: "I spoke no Russian (and still speak none), and it was Munro Edmonson who taught me (phonetically) the Russian phrase I used in 'Lobachevsky' regarding going where even the Tsar goes on foot...I've used various Russian expressions on the various recordings. On the first (the 1953 10-inch), the first phrase was the first line of Mussorgsky's Song of the Flea, with which I was already familiar and which Ed taught me how to pronounce. It means 'once there was a king who had a pet flea.' The second says 'now I go [or I must go] where even the Tsar goes on foot.' A reference, of course, to the bathroom. As I said, Ed knew this expression and passed it on to me when I was looking for a Russian phrase. In later recordings I used, instead of the flea reference, a line from 'Meadowlands,' a Russian song well known in the 40s, popularized by the Red Army Chorus. It means something like 'hail the mighty Red Army.' "

If you haven't yet bought Lehrer's 3-CD set, you should. This is the best $45 you'll spend this month. Not only does it include virtually all his songs, all the lyrics, all his wonderful original liner notes, and several songs not available on any other albums, but it also has a great biography (with many quotes from Lehrer) and comic-strip illustrations of two of his songs from Mad Magazine. (Click the image to purchase from Amazon.com.)
However, if you're feeling cheap, "Lobachevsky" is on the album shown at right (click image to purchase from Amazon.com).
Sheet music for almost all of his songs, including "Lobachevsky" is in this book (click image to purchase from Amazon.com).

Lyrics used for the Physical Revue (dialog and song performed by Mr. Lehrer):

Introductory dialog (recall that this song immediately followed "The Derivative Song")
You call that mathematics!
Let me tell you of the days when I studied under the great Lobachevsky,
Who is the greatest mathematician the world has ever known?
And how did I get that way?
Who made me a genius -- a man for all others to quote?
The greatest professor that ever got chalk on his coat.

One man deserves the credit,
One man deserves the blame --
And Nicolai Ivanovich Lobachevsky is his name.
Hi!, Nicolai Ivanovich Lobach--

I am never forget the day I first meet the great Lobachevsky.
He took me by the hand, and beat my head against the wall!
In one word, in one word he told me the secret of success in mathematics:

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 --
(Spoken: Only be sure always to call it please "research")

And ever since I meet this man
My life is not the same,
And Nicolai Ivanovich Lobachevsky is his name.
Hi!, Nicolai Ivanovich Lobach --

I am never forget the day I am given first original paper to write.
This paper was to be on analytic and algebraic topology of
locally Euclidean metrization of infinitely differentiable
Riemannian manifold.  Bozhe moi!  This I know from nothing.
But I remember great Lobachevsky and get idea -- ah-hah!

I have a friend in Minsk,
Who has a friend in Pinsk,
Whose friend in Omsk
Has friend in Tomsk
With friend in Akmolinsk.
His friend in Alexandrovsk
Has friend in Petropavlovsk,
Whose friend somehow
Is solving now
The problem in Dnepropetrovsk.

And when his work is done,
Ha ha! -- begins the fun.
From Dnepropetrovsk
To Petropavlovsk,
By way of Iliysk,
And Novorossiysk,
To Alexandrovsk to Akmolinsk
To Tomsk to Omsk
To Pinsk to Minsk
To me the news will run,
Yes, to me the news will run!

And then I write
By morning, night,
And Afternoon,
And pretty soon
My name in Dnepropetrovsk is cursed,
When he finds out I publish first!

And who made me a big success,
And brought me wealth and fame?
Nicolai Ivanovich Lobachevsky is his name.
Hi!, Nicolai Ivanovich Lobach --

I am never forget the day my first book is published.
Every chapter I stole from somewhere else:
Index I copy from old Vladivostok telephone directory.
This book, this book was sensational!
Pravda, Pravda said:
(random Russian words), It stinks.
But Izvestia!  Izvestia said:
(random Russian words),  It stinks.
Metro-Goldwyn-Moskva buys movie rights for six million rubles,
Changes title to "The Eternal Triangle"
With Ingrid Bergman playing part of hypotenuse.

And who deserves the credit?
And who deserves the blame?
Nicolai Ivanovich Lobachevsky is his name, Hi!

Back to "The Physical Revue" main page ..Return to PhysicsSongs.org main page

Background image: covers from some of Tom Lehrer's albums