Kaplansky, Lucy vs. Irving

Lucy K.

We wanted to let you know of a musician named Lucy Kaplansky who’ll be playing at the Performing Arts Studio here in Norman on Sunday.  She is first got her Ph.D. in clinical psychology and then traded in to be became a singer-songwriter.  She’s sung with Suzanne Vega, Shawn Colvin, Dar Williams and Richard Shindell.  She’s an accomplished musician and it’s a great fortune that she’ll be stopping at Norman on her latest tour.

Now you may be saying, “Hey OU Math Club Blog, that’s cool, but what’s that have to do with math?”  Well, to give you a hint, let us point out that Lucy Kaplansky is known to sing “A Song About \pi” if the audience requests.


In all the bygone ages,
Philosophers and sages
Have meditated on the circle’s mysteries.
From Euclid to Pythagoras,
From Gauss to Anaxag’ras,
Their thoughts have filled the libr’ies bulging histories.
And yet there was elation
Throughout the whole Greek nation
When Archimedes made his mighty computation!
He said:


3 1 41 Oh (5) my (9), here’s (2) a (6) song (5) to (3) sing (5) about (8,9) pi (7).
Not a sigma or mu but a well-known Greek letter too.
You can have your alphas and the great phi-bates, and omega for a friend,
But that’s just what a circle doesn’t have–a beginning or an end.
3 1 4 1 5 9 is a ratio we don’t define;
Two pi times radii gives circumf’rence you can rely;
If you square the radius times the pi, you will get the circle’s space.
Here’s a song about pi, fit for a mathematician’s embrace.

Now you may be saying, “Okay, that’s slightly strange.  Why would she sing a song about \pi?  Well, to give you another hint, the song was written by her dad, Irving Kaplansky.

Irving K.

Who’s Irving Kaplansky?  He’s a very well known mathematician who was at the University of Chicago for many years and did a lot of research in abstract algebra.  In addition to publishing over 150 research papers, he was musically inclined, wrote a number of math related songs, and, apparently, passed along his music gene to his daughter Lucy Kaplansky.  If you can, you should check out her concert on Sunday!

If nothing else, you should go in honor of the upcoming \pi day!