Submitted by Maggie Geselbracht / Reed College on Sat, 12/27/2008 - 19:35
My Notes

Here is a fun way to learn about inorganic chemistry!  These songs were composed and passed along to me by Tom Mallouk at Penn State with his permission to post here on VIPEr.  I Can't Get No Bragg Diffraction was a joint effort put together one year at a Gordon Research Conference on Solid State Chemistry.  Sorry, no recording!  The tune n-doped, recorded by the Band Edges, covers the electronic structure behind semiconductor devices.  Download the lyrics for both and the mp3 file for n-doped!  There is a music video for n-doped with the lyrics captioned that can be found on Tom Mallouk's group web site.


You can also extend this musical activity with Tom Mallouk's Hey Little Ions (available on YouTube) and the Musical Chemistry Karaoke site.  My personal favorite is I Believe in MO Theory.

Learning Goals

To share a smile and a laugh about inorganic chemistry...

Equipment needs


Implementation Notes

You can play chemistry karaoke!  Or challenge the students to compose their own chemistry songs!

Time Required
5-10 minutes
Creative Commons License
Attribution, Non-Commercial, Share Alike CC BY-NC-SA
Adam Johnson / Harvey Mudd College

I often (perhaps too often) sing chemistry songs in my class.  I allow the students to write and perform songs in my class for credit (replace one homework or so) as long as they

  1. are about inorganic chemistry
  2. are chemically correct
  3. are sung to recognizable tunes (I encourage singing along to MIDI files which you can find online)
  4. are humorous

One day last year, in a fit of clarity, I wrote this song  about ferrocene as an introduction to the field of metal carbon bonds.

The Ferrocene song
Written by Adam Johnson, Spring 2008
Sung to the tune of “America the Beautiful”

The synthesis of fulvalene
Gave Pauson quite a fright
Geoff Wilkinson was heard to say
“My God, that can’t be right!”
oh Ferrocene, oh Ferrocene
its C-P-two-F-E
its bonds are strong
they aren’t that long
from 10 C’s to F-E

Its stable to high temperature
One peak in the I-R
Reacts with a-cetyl chloride
An armoatic star!
Oh Ferrocene, oh Ferrocene
You opened up the door
M-Carbon bonds
Can be quite strong
Let’s go and look for more!

Tue, 02/03/2009 - 18:40 Permalink
Flick Coleman / Wellesley College

In 1986 Derek Davenport ran the Woodrow Wilson Summer Chemistry Institute for High School Teachers at Princeton and his topic for the month was transition metal chemistry.  I was the guest speaker for one of the weeks and lectured every morning but in the afternoon watched the participants work on their one-pot reaction projects.  While doing so I tried to capture each one-pot in song.  The results are at as a pdf file.  I have performed these at several Biennials, in the middle of talks at ACS meetings, at Derek's retirement party at Purdue, and in my own classes.  However, I can't find any of the recordings we have done.

In 1988 I ran the Institute and the theme for the month was water.  Somewhere I have some Pourbaix songs that I did then, but can't seem to find them either.



Sun, 03/15/2009 - 22:20 Permalink
Maggie Geselbracht / Reed College
And how could I forget the Bravais Lattice Song?  We had a sing-along to this tune in class today.  Perfect timing for our discussion of crystallographic symmetry.
Tue, 04/07/2009 - 22:35 Permalink
Betsy Jamieson / Smith College

In reply to by Adam Johnson / Harvey Mudd College

I LOVE the ferrocene song!  Just awesome!  If only I could carry a tune, I'd think about singing it to my class.  I have a colleague who does something similar.  She gives extra credit on her final exam for poems students write about chemistry. 

Tue, 09/22/2009 - 10:50 Permalink
Nancy Williams / Scripps College, Pitzer College, Claremont McKenna College

In reply to by Adam Johnson / Harvey Mudd College

I actually sang this in our ferrocene synthesis lab. Most of the students seemed amused. A few were aghast that I could actually stoop lower than I already had that semester in service of their "education".
Tue, 03/02/2010 - 14:17 Permalink
Hilary Eppley / DePauw University
...for the n-doped song last semester. Lyric interpretation. I'll have to post that as a learning object one of these days...
Fri, 03/05/2010 - 08:32 Permalink
Adam Johnson / Harvey Mudd College

I also love the magnesium song (also to America the Beautiful) which I stole from the internet a long time ago and don't remember where.  This one is best sung *with feeling*, really emphasizing the etherialness of the solvent and leading up to the great final line in each verse. I should record a youtube video of this...

(to the tune of "America the Beautiful")

For alkyl halides' majesty
Magnesium is meant,
Assisted by completely dry
E-ther-e-al sol-vent.
Magnesium, Magnesium,
A Grignard has M-g,
It's understood, its bonds are good
From C to shining C.

A carbonyl is polarized,
Its carbon end is plus.
A nucleophile will thus attack
The carbon nucleus.
Magnesium, Magnesium,
A Grignard has M-g,
Each one is fond of making bonds
From C to shining C.

Fri, 03/07/2014 - 08:30 Permalink