Clerihews on scientists

9 October 2021

9:00 AM

9 October 2021

9:00 AM

In Competition No. 3219, you were invited to supply clerihews on well-known scientists, past and present.

The subject of the first ever clerihew — a pseudo-biographical quatrain, AABB, playful in tone, metrically clunky — which was written, for fun, in about 1890 by schoolboy E.C. Bentley (and illustrated by his chum G.K. Chesterton) was a scientist:

Sir Humphry Davy 
Abominated gravy. 
He lived in the odium 
Of having discovered sodium.

But it was all downhill from there, it seems. In his introduction to The Complete Clerihews of E.Clerihew Bentley, the poet Gavin Ewart contends that ‘nobody much except Bentley has ever written really good clerihews’. Even literary giant W.H. Auden, he says, doesn’t quite cut the mustard.

That didn’t put you off, though, and in a large and spirited entry honourable mentions go to Barbara Knight, John Maddicott, David Shields, Nicholas Stone, Philip Wilson, G.N. Crockford, P.T. Brown, Iain Morley, Max Gutmann and Rachael Churchill. The winners, printed below, pocket £9 each.

Brian Cox 
When he talks of quark and quantum 
I want ’em. 
George Simmers

Erwin Schrödinger
Doesn’t mean to be a woe bringer 
To the world’s feline population, 
But his thought experiment occasions consternation. 
Chris O’Carroll

Enrico Fermi 
Does rather scare me, 
For he was the Father of the Atomic Bomb. 
Frank Upton

Alfred Nobel 
Invented substances that blew people to Hell, 
Then endowed six major prizes. Maybe seven 
Would have got him into Heaven. 
Basil Ransome-Davies

The young Marie Curie 
Reacted with fury 
When they said don’t worry your pretty little cranium
About uranium 
David Silverman

Alan Turing 
Spent years enduring 
Unrelated abuse for achievements which should 
Have earned him a knighthood. 
Martin Parker

Archimedes of Syracuse 
Ran from the bath with his news. 
The first streaker. 
Nicholas Hodgson

Alexander Bell 
Could never have imagined the hell 
His invention would lead to. Who could foretell 
That countless millions would end up living in a cell? 
Brian Allgar

Hedy Lamarr 
Was a Hollywood star 
Whose movies I recently rented 
To watch on the wifi she sort of invented. 
Robert Schechter

Always drank beer from a fine stein; 
He thought it the sign of an ass 
To drink beer from a glass. 
Carolyn Beckingham

Alexander Fleming 
Made a great discovery, stemming 
From a mouldy dish, which made the future cheerier 
For all of us — except, of course, for the bacteria. 
Sylvia Fairley

Tim Berners-Lee 
Has a posh degree 
And has connected every pleb 
On the www. 
Bill Greenwell

Placed all o’ you and all o’ me 
At the centre of all of it. 
He was off by a bit. 
Francis Harry

John Logie Baird 
Despite widespread derision, 
To invent the television. 
Hugh King

Ada Lovelace 
Gave symbolic logic a poetic face 
But took mathematics from her mother, rather 
Than her father. 
Ann Drysdale

Sir Francis Bacon 
Said evidence shows if a theory’s mistaken; 
Bear that in mind when somebody says 
He wrote plays. 
W.J. Webster

Georg Ohm 
Finally left his Bavarian home 
At his Mum’s insistence… 
When he showed resistance. 
C. Paul Evans

No. 3222: group think

You are invited to supply a dystopian short story that incorporates as many collective nouns for animals or birds as possible. Please email entries (maximum 150 words; please italicise collective nouns) to by midday on 20 October.

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