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Zero Gravity: The Lighter Side of Science

The Astronomer's Drinking Song*

Author Unknown

pub drinking scene

It should come as no surprise to anyone that astronomers have their very own drinking song. [All that nighttime stargazing is bound to work up a thirst.] Not surprisingly, given the esoteric nature of the profession, the quality of the lyrics is several cuts above the old college standard, "99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall." The author is unknown, but the poem was written about 1800 and is included in Augustus De Morgan's Budget of Paradoxes (1866). And is to be sung to the well known ditty "The Vicar of Bray." Now if only we could locate a physicists' drinking song...

*Cheers! Dedicated to the American Astronomical Society (AAS) on this, their centennial, year.

Whoe'er would search the starry sky,
Its secrets to divine, sir,
Should take his glass-I mean, should try
A glass or two of wine, sir!
True virtue lies in golden mean,
And man must wet his clay, sir;
Join these two maxims, and 'tis seen
He should drink his bottle a day, sir!

Old Archimedes, reverend sage!
By trump of fame renowned, sir,
Deep problems solved in every page,
And the sphere's curved surface found, sir:
Himself he would have far outshone,
And borne a wider sway, sir,
Had he our modern secret known,
And drank a bottle a day, sir!

When Ptolemy, now long ago,
Believed the Earth stood still, sir,
He never would have blundered so,
Had he but drunk his fill, sir:
He'd then have felt it circulate,
And would have learnt to say, sir,
The true way to investigate
Is to drink your bottle a day, sir!

Copernicus, that learned wight,
The glory of his nation,
With draughts of wine refreshed his sight,
And saw the Earth's rotation
Each planet then its orb described,
The Moon got under way, sir;
These truths from nature he imbibed
For he drank his bottle a day, sir!

The noble Tycho placed the stars,
Each in its due location;
He lost his nose by spite of Mars,
But that was no privation:
Had he but lost his mouth, I grant
He would have felt dismay, sir,
Bless you! he knew what he should want
To drink his bottle a day, sir!

Cold water makes no lucky hits;
On mysteries the head runs:
Small drink let Kepler time his wits
On the regular polyhedrons:
He took to wine, and it changed the chime,
His genius swept away, sir,
Through area varying as the time
At the rate of a bottle a day, sir!

Poor Galileo, forced to rat
Before the Inquisition,
E pur si muove was the pat
He gave them in addition:
He meant, whate'er you think you prove,
The Earth must go its way, sirs;
Spite of your teeth I'll make it move,
For I'll drink my bottle a day, sirs!

Great Newton, who was never beat
Whatever fools may think, sir;
Though sometimes he forgot to eat,
He never forgot to drink, sir:
Descartes took nought but lemonade,
To conquer him was play, sir;
The first advance that Newton made
Was to drink his bottle a day, sir!

D'Alembert, Euler, and Clairaut,
Though they increased our store, sir,
Much further had been seen to go
Had they tippled a little more, sir!
Lagrange gets mellow with Laplace,
And both are wont to say, sir,
The philosophe who's not an ass
Will drink his bottle a day, sir!

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Editor: Barrett H. Ripin
Associate Editor: Jennifer Ouellette