Return to the main Tom Lehrer Page

TOM LEHRER REVISITED

6. Lobachevsky

For many years now, Mr. Danny Kaye, who has been my particular idol since childbirth, has been doing a routine about the great Russian director Stanislavsky and the secret of success in the acting profession. And I thought it would be interesting to ste... to adapt this idea to the field of mathematics. I always like to make explicit the fact that before I went off not too long ago to fight in the trenches, I was a mathematician by profession. I don't like people to get the idea that I have to do this for a living. I mean, it isn't as though I had to do this, you know, I could be making, oh, 3000 dollars a year, just teaching.

Be that as it may, some of you may have had occasion to run into mathematicians and to wonder therefore how they got that way, and here, in partial explanation perhaps, is the story of the great Russian mathematician Nicolai Ivanovich Lobachevsky.1


Who made me the genius I am today,
The mathematician that others all quote?
Who's the professor that made me that way,
The greatest that ever got chalk on his coat?

One man deserves the credit,
One man deserves the blame,
and Nicolai Ivanovich Lobachevsky is his name.  Oy!
Nicolai Ivanovich Lobache...

I am never forget the day I first meet the great Lobachevsky.
In one word he told me secret of success in mathematics: Plagiarize!

Plagiarize,
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...
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.  Oy!
Nicolai Ivanovich Lobache...

I am never forget the day I am given first original paper to write.  It
was on Analytic and Algebraic Topology of Locally Euclidean Metrization
of Infinitely Differentiable Riemannian Manifold.
Bozhe moi!
This I know from nothing.2
But I think of great Lobachevsky and I get idea - haha!

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 -
Haha! - 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 published first!

And who made me a big success
And brought me wealth and fame?
Nicolai Ivanovich Lobachevsky is his name.  Oy!
Nicolai Ivanovich Lobache...


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!3
Pravda - ah, Pravda - Pravda said:

"Zhil byl korol' kogda-to, Pri njom blokha zhila" ("It stinks"). 4
But Izvestia!  Izvestia said:
"Ya idu kuda sam tzar' peshkom hodil" ("It stinks"). 5
Metro-Goldwyn-Moskva bought the movie rights for six million rubles,
Changing title to 'The Eternal Triangle',
With Brigitte Bardot playing part of hypotenuse.6


And who deserves the credit?
And who deserves the blame?
Nicolai Ivanovich Lobachevsky is his name.
Oy!


Notes

      1 Nicolai Ivanovich Lobachevsky; 1793-1856


      2In the studio recording these two lines are slightly different:

This I know from nothing. What I'm going to do?
I think of great Lobachevsky and I get idea - haha!


      3In the studio recording these three lines are slightly different:

This book was sensational!
Pravda, ha, well Pravda says:


      4Translation: "Once upon a time a king had a pet flea", the first line of Mephistopheles' Song of the Flea by Modest Petrovich Musorgsky (1839-1881). -- [contributed by Dmitry Ostrovsky]


      5 Translation: "I should go where the tzar himself has walked", a slang phrase meaning "I should go to the toilet". -- [contributed by Dmitry Ostrovsky]


      6 In the studio recording the part of the hypotenuse was played by Ingrid Bergman


Click here to go to the next song on the album.

Click here to return to the main Tom Lehrer page.