Tom Lehrer, Mathematician, Professor, & Musician: Madeline’s Monthly Musical Tips Blog/Article for June 2021

 Our blog and Radio Show features Tom Lehrer, mathematician, professor, songwriter, satirist, and musician. Many of the world’s mathematicians, biologists, chemists, scientists, medical doctors, engineers, writers, teachers, and others have studied and played musical instruments since they were children. These eminent individuals have integrated music into their thinking process. Also included is an article on playing classical music for patients at hospitals to calm patients and help them heal faster.

Our article of the month is “Waking Up Before it’s too late!” by Madeline Frank, Ph.D.

Radio Show Feature Question for June 2021:  How does Classical music play a part of Tom Lehrer’s life as a mathematician, professor, songwriter, satirist, and musician and what musical instruments does he play?


The Early Years:

Tom Andrew Lehrer was born on April 9, 1928 in New York City to Moses James Lehrer and Anna Lehrer. He began studying the piano at 7 years of age. He later would sing the lyrics to the music he wrote.

Lehrer recalled “his childhood as idyllic” in several interviews. “He skipped grades, studied math and piano and played with logic puzzles, and immersed himself in pop culture: He bought one or two 78 records every week, and favored the popular comedy show Vic and Sade on the radio. He grew up, most of all, on the Broadway of Danny Kaye and Cole Porter. He spent summers in Maine at Camp Androscoggin.

When he was 14 his parents divorced.

Lehrer was a prodigy. “He raced through Horace Mann, a private high school in the Bronx, and graduated from Loomis Chaffee, a Connecticut prep school, in 1943. It was at Loomis that he wrote his “Dissertation on Education,” the poem he used to apply to college. Its last stanza: “But although I detest/Learning poems and the rest/Of the things one must know to have ‘culture,’/While each of my teachers/Makes speeches like preachers/And preys on my faults like a vulture,/I will leave movie thrillers/And watch caterpillars/Get born and pupated and larva’ed,/And I’ll work like a slave/And always behave/And maybe I’ll get into Harvard…”  (Tom Lehrer Wikipedia)

University/ Graduate School:

Lehrer was 15 years old when he began in Harvard’s freshman class that summer.

“There, among the elite young men of his generation, Lehrer stood out for his wit and brilliance. In his room at Lowell House — a friend, David Robinson, still recalls the room number, M31, Lehrer had a stand-up piano. Lehrer and his friends reserved the evenings and weekends for pranks, insult comedy, and Lehrer just showing off: He once played a Rachmaninoff concerto with the left hand in one key and the right in half a key below.”

“He earned his first measure of campus fame in 1945 with “Fight Fiercely Harvard” a song that questioned the toughness of the genteel school’s football team. (“How we shall celebrate our victory / We’ll invite the whole team up for tea!”)

Tom Lehrer earned in 1946, his  Bachelor of Arts in mathematics from Harvard University, magna cum laude.

At 18, in 1946, Lehrer entered graduate school at Harvard. “He found himself at the center of a group of friends who called themselves the “Graduate Gang.” They amused themselves with the quizzes, crossword puzzles, and math games they brought to their dinners in the Harvard dining hall. It was, in retrospect, a gilded circle: One member, Philip Warren Anderson, went on to win a Nobel Prize in physics; Lewis Branscomb served as the chief scientist of IBM; and Robinson was an executive director of the Carnegie Corporation.”

Robinson said, “Tom was the intellectual leader in the sense that he was the funniest and he would come up with cuter problems.”

Tom earned his AM degree in 1947 and was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa. He then joined Harvard’s doctoral program.


Lehrer staged “   The Physical Revue” in January 1951. It was “a musical drama of 21 songs that he had written and refined throughout his time at Harvard. The show was performed in Room 250 of Jefferson Laboratory for the introductory physics class Branscomb taught, and recorded using wire technology by Norman Ramsey, a young physics professor who would also go on to win the Nobel Prize. The next month, as a result of the success of the Revue, Lehrer and his friends were invited to perform at the Freshman Smoker, according to Robinson, “big-time” event that was described in a 1949 issue of the Harvard Crimson.”

Robinson said, “Lehrer hadn’t worked at stardom, but he was becoming a star. People had begun asking him to do performances at cocktail parties and private events. “He kept doubling his price and would get half as many [gigs], which was just fine with him.”

“Within the year, though, his graduate group of friends had begun to trickle out of Cambridge, first the chemist, then the physicists, then the historians who took much longer to get a Ph.D. As a souvenir for them, Lehrer decided in 1953 to make a record of the songs he had written at Harvard. He recorded Songs by Tom Lehrer in one session at Trans Radio studios in Boston on a 10-inch LP.”

“He asked Robinson for advice on how many copies to print. Lehrer had paid full price, $5.59, to buy five for his parents; his father promised to buy another 35 to give away. It would take 250 records to break even. Robinson suggested he print 300; Lehrer paused for a moment. “I’m going to get the 400.”

“A couple of days later, Robinson would receive a telegram from Lehrer while on a trip to California. Lehrer had just finished performing at Dunster House, and had taken his records with him. The message was brief: “They’re all sold.”

“Lehrer then incorporated Lehrer Music, bought the rights to the record from Trans Radio, and began selling it by mail order through P.O. Box 121 at the Cambridge post office. He rented an empty room on the second floor of his rooming house, hired Harvard freshmen to help him with packing, and trudged down to the post office every Monday for months to send shipments.’ (Tom Lehrer ,Wikipedia)


U.S. Army 1955 to 1957:

He worked “at the National Security Agency” (NSA) working on classified projects.

“In 1960, Lehrer returned to full-time math studies at Harvard.

Teaching (1962-2001):

Tom Lehrer “taught mathematics and other classes at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) , Harvard,  Wellesley, and the University of California, Santa Cruz”.

“ In 1965 he gave up on his mathematical dissertation on  modes  in statistics, after having worked on it intermittently for 15 years.

“In the1970 he contributed songs to a children’s show called The Electric Company which aired on PBS . This show aims to help early elementary students learn to read.”


Lehrer  in 1972  “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 topic.”

Lehrer in 2001 “taught his last mathematics class , on the topic of  infinity, and retired from academia. He has remained in the University of California, Santa Cruz.”

Publications in Mathematics:

“The  American Mathematical Society database lists him as co-author of two papers”:

  • E. Fagen; T. A. Lehrer (March 1958). “Random walks with restraining barrier as applied to the biased binary counter”.Journal of the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics. 6 (1): 1–14. 
  • Austin; R. Fagen; T. Lehrer; W. Penney (1957). “The distribution of the number of locally maximal elements in random sample”.
     Annals of Mathematical Statistics. 28 (3): 786–790 
  • Tom Lehrer is a mathematician, professor, songwriter, satirist, and lifelong musician. He has left a lasting legacy of teaching math and musical theater for 40 years to his students. He shared “his humor and wit through music.” On Oct. 21, 2020 , Tom Lehar, 92, put everything he wrote into the public domain. This is his gift for all of us to enjoy!


Waking Up Before it’s too late!  by Madeline Frank, Ph.D.

Are you living on autopilot?

A friend of mine always says first, with a smile on his face, “I am grateful to be alive.”

When I was in my late 20s, I went to the hospital to have a growth removed that the doctor thought might be cancerous. My Mom came to the hospital with me. Once I was on the operating table, the anesthesiologist gave me anesthesia to put me under. When the procedure was over and I was in the recovery area, the doctor and surgical staff could not wake me up and the doctor asked my Momma to come in.

Momma said to him in a clear loud excited voice “Wake her up!”

I came to with the doctor pounding on my chest and my Momma standing nearby!

I was having a happy dream and did not realize they were unable to wake me up! If not for my Momma I would have been dead!

The doctor said, “You are allergic to the anesthesia I gave you and I was not able to wake you up until your Mother insisted I wake you up.” 

“Do not ever allow them to give you this type of anesthesia again!”

They discovered that I was allergic to one of the drugs that I was given during surgery.

I nearly didn’t wake up; but I was oblivious…because I was unconscious.

Open your eyes.

While this story was literally about waking up; most people are drifting through life on autopilot with their eyes closed.

And most people are oblivious to the fact that they are “unconscious” to their priorities and life.

By having your success habits in place, you release your tension!

When you have intention, you open up your eyes, gain clarity, and take action!

When you gain clarity, you are compelled to move forward.

When you begin to move forward, you generate momentum.

When you generate momentum, others take notice.

Have you ever been at a stop light with a person texting on their phone, or been in an accident caused by a distracted driver?

The benefits are quite obvious when a distracted driver chooses to  “open their eyes” and “decides” to put their cell phone in the back seat before they begin driving to prevent them from having another accident.

I challenge anyone to argue the benefits of a driver soothing their boredom by gluing their attention to a screen rather than paying attention to driving. Put it away.

Do you know someone who listens to the news without stopping, 24 hours a day? If that is their only intake of information, they are likely quite bitter and angry.

What can you do to improve this situation?

Replace an hour of listening/watching/reading the news with something uplifting, growth oriented, or gratitude related. See how you feel after one week. How about after one month?

Are you still angry? Has your mood improved? Are you able to think clearly and focused?

Have you ever been in a home with drafty windows?

Not only is it uncomfortable, but they can let in bugs.

Sealing your home with new windows will not only make it more comfortable; it creates a cleaner environment.

Your relationships and your standards are the windows of your life. If you are willing to tolerate pests, bugs, and other nasty creatures into your home, you may also let in negative people, stagnant people, and those who drag you down.

How can you improve your relationships and connect with others?

  1. Ask them how they are and then ask them how their family is?
  2. Listen carefully to what they say and offer your thoughts when appropriate.

 By having your success habits in place, you release your tension!

When you have intention, you open up your eyes, gain clarity, and are moved to take action! © 2021 Madeline Frank!&id=10457413

If you need a virtual speaker contact Madeline at: [email protected]


 “The Healing Power of Music” (April 8, 2021 by Richard Schiffman from the New York Times. “Music therapy is increasingly used to help patients cope with stress and promote healing.”

Andrew Rossetti, a licensed music therapist and researcher said “as he strummed hypnotic chords on a Spanish-style classical guitar, “Focus on the sound of the instrument. Close your eyes. Think of a place where you feel safe and comfortable.”

“Music therapy was the last thing that Julia Justo, a graphic artist who immigrated to New York from Argentina, expected when she went to Mount Sinai Beth Israel Union Square Clinic for treatment for cancer in 2016. But it quickly calmed her fears about the radiation therapy she needed to go through, which was causing her severe anxiety.” She said, “I felt the difference right away, I was much more relaxed.”

Joanne Loewy, the founding director of the hospital’s Louis Armstrong Center for Music & Medicine said, “We modify what we play according to the patient’s breath and heart rate. Our goal is to anchor the person, to keep their mind connected to the body as they go through these challenging treatments.”

Dr. Dave Bosanquet, a vascular surgeon at the Royal Gwent Hospital in Newport, Wales, says “that music has become much more common in operating rooms in England in recent years with the spread of bluetooth speakers. Prerecorded music not only helps surgical patients relax, he says, it also helps surgeons focus on their task. He recommends classical music, which “evokes mental vigilance” and lacks distracting lyrics, but cautions that it “should only be played during low or average stress procedures” and not during complex operations, which demand a sharper focus.”


The Secret of Teaching Science & Math Through Music” by Madeline Frank, Ph.D. is available in book form, and newly updated as an e-book on Kindle, Nook, or iBook:


 “Musical Notes On Math” by Dr. Madeline Frank teaches your child fractions and decimals, the fun easy way, through the rhythm of music, Winner of the Parent To Parent Adding Wisdom Award is available in book form, newly updated as an e-book on Kindle, Nook, or iBook.:


 Madeline’s Midnight Melodies- Music From around the World”. This CD complements her books with a blend of dance music, gigues, tangos, ballet and favorites including “Danny Boy”, Puccini’s “O Mio Babbino Caro”, Debussy’s “Claire De Lune” and others. “Madeline’s Midnight Melodies” is music to relax by and to move by for music therapy.  “Madeline’s Midnight Melodies” CD is now available for purchase by downloading a song, downloading the album, or by CD by clicking below:

Download Your Copy Today!  Amazon | iTunes |

Dr. Madeline Frank’s book “Leadership on a Shoestring Budget” is available through amazon. To order your copy  as an e-book on Kindle click on the following link:


Wishing you and your family a Happy Father’s Day from your Non-Invasive Medicine…Music Expert, Madeline

For over 30 years, Dr. Madeline Frank has helped children and adults overcome problems through Classical music. Madeline Frank, Ph.D., DTM is an award-winning teacher, author, researcher, speaker, conductor, and concert artist. She has discovered a scientific link between studying a musical instrument and academic and societal success. Madeline Frank earned her Bachelor and Master’s degree from the Juilliard School of Music. Her education has included scholarships at the Juilliard School, Indiana University, and the University of Cincinnati and she has a violin performance diploma from the North Carolina School of the Arts. (C) 2021 Madeline Frank