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Not With The Band: Why So Many Famous Scientists In Pop Songs?


Einstein with guitar

I love science and music, and the two can be very reconcilable. As a matter of fact do you know that a lot of famous scientists are named in pop songs? Here are a few examples I could find, but the list is probably longer than this?

Galileo is a great figure in science, he is the father of modern physics and although he was born in 1564, he had to wait till 1992 to get an apology from Pope John Paul II for the way he was treated by the Catholic church about his theory of heliocentrism! Incredible, and may be this is why he appears in so many songs: Queen named him in ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ (some theory says this is coming from the band’s guitarist Brian May who studied astrophysics and has even completed a PhD in astrophysics), and Amy Grant, Indigo Girls, and Celtic Thunder have all written songs tracks called Galileo.

Isaac Newton is another giant of modern physics, and he figures in many songs like Madonna’s ‘Super Pop’, Bob Seger’s ‘Revisionism Street’, R.E.M.’s ‘Man on the Moon’, The Beastie Boys’ ‘The Sounds of Science’, but I should say that the Beasties also name check Galileo and Benjamin Franklin in this same song!

To continue with the great men of physics, Albert Einstein is truly part of our pop culture and figures in many songs as expected: They Might Be Giants’ ‘The World’s Address’, Landscape‘s ‘Einstein A Go-Go’, Counting Crows’ ‘Einstein on the Beach’, Jimmy Buffett’s ‘Einstein was a Surfer’ Bob Dylan’s ‘Desolation Row’, and even Kelly Clarkson’s ‘Einstein’… so weird!

Thomas Edison gave us electricity and the Bee Gees understood this when they wrote ‘Edison’ but there is also a band called Tesla (yeah another scientist big on electricity, and the band was obviously named after Nikola Tesla) who wrote ‘Edison’s Medicine’, whereas Chumbawamba mention the big man in ‘The Wizard of Menlo Park’.

Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone and who could do without it these days? The man is named in Nik Kershaw’s ‘Gone to Pieces’, in XV’s ‘Best is Yet to Come’, NAS ‘New World’, and the Sweet’s Alexander Graham Bell.

Nicolaus Copernicus, also responsible for the modern heliocentric view of the solar system, is mentioned in The Mars Volta’s ‘Copernicus’, Ben Folds Five’s ‘The Sound Of the Life of The Mind’, and They Might Be Giants’ ‘The World’s Address’.

The great mathematician Archimedes is mentioned in Al Stewart ‘Beleeka Doodle Day’, and the great physicist and chemist Marie Curie (at least a woman!) is featured in Donna Summer’s ‘Dinner with Gershwin’,… who would have thought?

But enough with physicists and math people, Charles Darwin, the greatest biologist who has ever existed, came up with the universal theory for evolutionary biology, something still damn controversial in certain circles! But who cares! R.E.M. mentioned him in ‘Man on the Moon’ and Clutch in ‘Never Be Moved’, but the Low Anthem gave him a whole album, ‘Oh my God, Charlie Darwin!’ and a sweet song, ‘Charlie Darwin’.

Lastly, the great pioneer primatologist Jane Goodall was mentioned in Stevie Nicks’ ‘Jane’.

I am far from knowing all these songs, but famous or not, they demonstrate the close connection between science and pop culture

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