The Professor's Song, by Tom Lehrer
copyright (c) 1951
Tune:-- “If You Give Me Your Attention,” from Princess Ida , by Sir Arthur S. Sullivan

This recording is posted here with permission from Tom Lehrer, Prof. Norman Ramsey (who made the recording), and all the cast members who are still living. You are encouraged to download it for your own use, and to notify others of the URL (web address) for this page, or the more general URL of this site.

You may not post the recording elsewhere on the internet, nor sell copies, nor modify the recording. All other rights are reserved.
(Note: the first 20 seconds are quite noisy; this part had been accidentally erased.)
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Sung by Lewis M. Branscomb, piano by Tom Lehrer. Technical notes on the recording.

Explanation of the physics in this song

If you give me your attention, I will tell you what I am
I'm a genius and a physicist (and something of a ham).
I have tried for numerous degrees, in fact, I've one of each:
Of course, that makes me eminently qualified to teach.
I understand the subject matter thoroughly, it's true,
And I can't see why it isn't all as obvious to you.
My lectures all are masterpieces, excellently planned,
Yet everybody tells me that I'm hard to understand,
And I can't think why!

My diagrams are models of true art, you must agree,
And my handwriting is famous for its legibility;
When I write "gravitation,"* say, or any other word,
For anyone to say he cannot read it is absurd.
My demonstrations all get more remarkable every year,
Though, frankly, what they go to prove is sometimes less than clear,
And all my explanations are quite lucid, I am sure,
Yet everybody tells me that my lectures are obscure.
And I can't think why!

Consider, for example, oscillation of a spring:
The force that acts upon it is a very simple thing,
It's kx3, or kx2 -- no, just kx I'll bet,
The sign in front is plus (or is it minus?...I forget).
Well, anyway, there is a force, of that there is no doubt;
All these problems are quite trivial, if you only think them out.
Yet people tell me: "I have memorized the whole term through,
Everything you've told us, but the problems I can't do."
And I can't think why!

*At this point in the song, Dr. Branscomb pointed to the word "gravitation" on the blackboard, which he'd written in an intentionlly illegible scrawl.

These lyrics were published in American Mathematical Monthly, vol. 81, p. 745 (1974), and in Physics Today, July 2005, p. 58.

Here is a video of Mr. Lehrer performing this song in 1997, with slightly altered lyrics to accommodate a math audience.

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