John Updike, 1932-2009

Here is my favorite poem about science. I found it stuck on the wall in my empty lab when I first came to Columbia in the fall of 1982. It is still tacked to my corkboard, yellowing and frayed. 

V.B. Nimble, V.B. Quick 

(inspired by V.B. Wigglesworth, F.R.S., Quick Professor of Biology at the University of Cambridge) 

V.B. Wigglesworth wakes at noon,
Washes, shaves and very soon
Is at the lab; he reads his mail,
Swings a tadpole by the tail,
Undoes his coat, removes his hat,
Dips a spider in a vat
Of alkaline, phones the press,
Tells them he is F.R.S.,
Subdivides six protocells,
Kills a rat by ringing bells,
Writes a treatise, edits two
Symposia on “Will man do?,”
Gives a lecture, audits three,
Has the sperm club in for tea,
Pensions off an aging spore,
Cracks a test tube, takes some pure,
Science and applies it, finds
His hat, adjusts it, pulls the blinds,
Instructs the jellyfish to spawn,
And, by one o’clock, is gone. 

From The Carpentered Hen and Other Tame Creatures, by John Updike. Copyright © 1955 by John Updike. 

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