Tom Lehrer: A Man of Math and Music

Tom Lehrer earned his AB in mathematics (magna cum laude) from Harvard University in 1946, when he was nineteen and received his MA degree the next year.  He remained in Harvard’s doctoral program for several years, taking time out for his musical career and to work as a researcher at the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory. He served in the U.S. Army from 1955 to 1957, working at the National Security Agency.  In 1960, Lehrer returned to full-time studies at Harvard, but he never completed his doctoral studies in mathematics.  From 1962, he taught in the political science department at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). In 1972, he joined the faculty of the University of California, Santa Cruz, teaching an introductory course entitled “The Nature of Mathematics” to liberal arts majors—”Math for Tenors”, according to Lehrer. He also taught a class in musical theater. He occasionally performed songs in his lectures, primarily those relating to the topics of his talks.  In 2001, Lehrer taught his last mathematics class (on the topic of infinity) and retired from academia.  He has remained in the area, and in 2003 said he still “hangs out” around the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Here is a taste of Tom’s educational songs.

That’s Mathematics on You Tube at

New Math on You Tube at

Here is some footage of Tom Lehrer lecturing on Math.


Learn more about Tom Lehrer on Wikipedia at

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