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"The Elements" is a song which was written by the very clever Tom Lehrer in 1959. It is sung to the tune of "I am the Very Model of a Modern Major-General", from Gilbert & Sullivan's The Pirates of Penzance. The song is a big list of all the discovered chemical elements, with each element being included in no particular logical order, which is to say that something like atomic numbers or alphabetical order is NOT what drives the list. Instead, alliteration is often used to put all the elements together, and the elements are strung together in ways that fit with the meter of the melody line.

As the song was written in 1959, element atomic number 102, nobelium, was the last discovered element at the time. Elements with the atomic numbers 103 through to 118 have been discovered since. During a live performance in Copenhagen in 1967, Tom Lehrer himself pointed out that lawrencium (103) had been discovered since the song was written; that particular performance was posted on Youtube in 2012, and you can find it here.

 

The Elements

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,
There's 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 Harvard,
And there may be many others but they haven't been discovered.

 

I would expect today's younger generations are most likely to have heard of "The Elements" existence through pop culture. For instance, on the popular TV show "The Big Bang Theory", Sheldon Cooper sings the song to halfway through the second verse. To find this scene yourself, fast foward to near the end of season 3, episode 18 (original air date June 30 2010).  Another example: Daniel Radcliffe, of Harry Potter fame, appeared on the TV talk show "The Graham Norton Show" on November 12 2010 and recited the whole song in its entirety from his memory.


 

Disclaimer: I did not type out these lyrics myself. I copy & pasted them from the Google Play Music website and then compared them to a few different copies of the song on YouTube for accuracy afterward.

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