Scientists In Pop Songs – The Top 10

Pop music needs science and technology: microphones, amplifiers, electric guitars, synthesizers, light shows and dry-ice are all examples of science applied to the world of entertainment.

While scientists and science aren’t what pop groups usually sing about, a few have briefly pushed the boundaries of their genre and namechecked some famous scientists.

Here’s our list of the Top 10 Scientists in pop songs.

1. Galileo Galiliei

GalileoGalileo Galiliei was one of the greatest scientists of the Renaissance.

Many people think of him as the father of modern physics.

His name appears in Queen’s biggest hit, Bohemian Rhapsody, perhaps a contribution from the group’s guitarist Brian May, who studied astrophysics at university before quitting academia for the band. Many years later, Brian May completed a PhD in astrophysics.

Galileo has also made it into other tunes, not just in the lyrics but in the title. Amy Grant, Indigo Girls and Celtic Thunder have all issued tracks called Galileo.

2. Isaac Newton

Newton, one of physics’ all-time greats, is a popular figure in songs including Super Pop by Madonna, Revisionism Street by Bob Seger, Sounds of Science by the Beastie Boys, and Man on the Moon by REM.

3. Albert Einstein

Einstein was the 20th century’s scientific superstar. It’s not surprising he was a hit in popular music too.

Several songs feature his name in their titles including Einstein by Kelly Clarkson, Einstein was a Surfer by Jimmy Buffett, Einstein on the Beach, by Counting Crows, The World’s Address by They Might Be Giants, and Einstein A Go-Go by Landscape. The Landscape tune features the ominous lyrics:

“You’d better watch out, you’d better beware, Albert said that E equals M C squared.”

4. Thomas Edison

Edison produced electric lights and his name is remembered in Edison by the Bee Gees, Edison’s Medicine by Tesla, and The Wizard of Menlo Park by Chumbawamba.

5. Alexander Graham Bell

Bell is best known for inventing the telephone and is remembered in the lyrics of Gone to Pieces by Nik Kershaw, Best is Yet to Come by XV, and New World by NAS.

6. Nikola Tesla

The developer of a.c. electricity gets more than a mention in a song, or even a song title. The rock group TESLA took their name from the great man.

Tesla Rock Group in Concert

The American Rock Group Tesla in Concert. Image by Äppelmos.

Tesla is also a song title from They Might Be Giants, featuring the lyric:

“Brought the AC power to the world
Here is a mind that can see across space
Here is a mind soaring free.”

7. Nicolaus Copernicus

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

8. Charles Darwin

Charles Darwin who, along with Alfred Russel Wallace, discovered the concept of evolution by natural selection gets a mention in Man on the Moon by REM and Never Be Moved by Clutch.

9. Archimedes

The greatest mathematician and scientist of the ancient world is mentioned by Al Stewart in Beleeka Doodle Day.

10. Marie Curie

Marie Curie, the only person to have won Nobel Prizes in both chemistry and physics, is namechecked in Dinner with Gershwin by Donna Summer.


Brilliant Chemistry Quotes

A selection of brilliantly quotable quotes from chemists through the ages:

Henry Edward ArmstrongThe physical chemists never use their eyes and are most lamentably lacking in chemical culture. It is essential to cast out from our midst, root and branch, this physical element and return to our laboratories.

Henry Edward Armstrong, 1848 to 1937
william ramsayThe country which is in advance of the rest of the world in chemistry will also be foremost in wealth and in general prosperity.

William Ramsay, 1852 to 1916
Louis PasteurTime is the best appraiser of scientific work, and I am aware that an industrial discovery rarely produces all its fruit in the hands of its first inventor.

Louis Pasteur, 1822 to 1895
Book PageWith monads and diads, and pentads and triads,
My brain has been addled completely;
And what’s really meant by ‘something-valent,’
Is a question I give up discretely.

John Cargill Brough, 1834 to 1872
johann joachim becherThe chemists are a strange class of mortals, impelled by an almost insane impulse to seek their pleasures amid smoke and vapor, soot and flame, poisons and poverty; yet among all these evils I seem to live so sweetly that may I die if I were to change places with the Persian king.

Johann Joachim Becher, 1635 to 1682
thomas thomsonChemistry, unlike other sciences, sprang originally from delusions and superstitions, and was at its commencement exactly on a par with magic and astrology.

Thomas Thomson, 1773 to 1852
humphry davyExperimental science hardly ever affords us more than approximations to the truth; and whenever many agents are concerned we are in great danger of being mistaken.

Humphry Davy, 1778 to 1829
Peter AtkinsChemistry begins in the stars. The stars are the source of the chemical elements, which are the building blocks of matter and the core of our subject.

Peter Atkins, 1940 to present
dorothy crowfoot hodgkinStill I had a lurking question. Would it not be better if one could really ‘see’ whether molecules as complicated as the sterols, or strychnine were just as experiment suggested?

Dorothy Hodgkin, 1910 to 1984
DemocritusWe think there is color, we think there is sweet, we think there is bitter, but in reality there are atoms and a void.

Democritus, c. 460 – c. 370 BC
linus paulingEvery aspect of the world today – even politics and international relations – is affected by chemistry.

Linus Pauling, 1901 to 1994
Sir William CrookesChemists do not usually stutter. It would be very awkward if they did, seeing that they have at times to get out such words as methylethylamylophenylium.

Sir William Crookes, 1832 to 1919
GeberI saw that people trying to synthesize gold and silver were working in ignorance, and by false methods; I then perceived that they belonged to two classes, the dupers and the duped. I pitied both of them.

Geber, c. 712 – c. 815 AD
Gilbert Newton LewisA detective with his murder mystery, a chemist seeking the structure of a new compound, use little of the formal and logical modes of reasoning. Through a series of intuitions, surmises, fancies, they stumble upon the right explanation, and have a knack of seizing it when it once comes within reach.

Gilbert Lewis, 1875 – 1946
Michael FaradayChemistry is necessarily an experimental science: its conclusions are drawn from data, and its principles supported by evidence from facts.

Michael Faraday, 1791 to 1867
justus von liebigA fact acquires its true and full value only through the idea which is developed from it.

Justus von Liebig, 1803 to 1873
william ramsayNothing can be more certain than this: that we are just beginning to learn something of the wonders of the world on which we live and move and have our being.

William Ramsay, 1852 to 1916
jw mellorTrial by combat of wits in disputations has no attraction for the seeker after truth; to him, the appeal to experiment is the last and only test of the merit of an opinion, conjecture, or hypotheses.

Joseph Mellor, 1869 to 1938
humphry davyWe must reason in natural philosophy not from what we hope, or even expect, but from what we perceive.

Humphry Davy, 1778 to 1829