Whatever Happened To . . .

David Sisler via e-mail asks, " Whatever Happened to . . . " Irreverent Balladeer Tom Lehrer

Math teacher with a wit sharper than a compass point? If you've ever sat through a math class, it may be hard to picture.

Tom Lehrer, a mathematician and pioneer in political incorrectness, is better known for his satirical songwriting than for his formidable math talents.

He graduated from Harvard with a BA in mathematics at age 18 and earned an MA a year later. (Mr. Lehrer has completed all the work for a PhD except his dissertation.)

He stumbled into a career as a songwriter when he started performing his irreverent songs as a graduate student in the 1950s. While his three albums have sold more than 1.5 million copies, Lehrer quit performing his zingers like "Poisoning Pigeons in the Park" in the 1960s.

"I'm still alive!" he jokes from his home in Cambridge, Mass. "I did six minutes in London two weeks ago. That's first time I've performed since 1972." Lehrer currently splits his time between Cambridge and the University of California at Santa Cruz, where he teaches math part-time.

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