Friday, October 18, 2013


“Scientists may have sophisticated laboratories,
But never forget 'Eureka' was inspired in a bathtub.”
~Toba Beta

I've been savoring Joyce Sidman's Eureka! Poems about Inventors. Joyce crafts believable voices for her inventors, who range from Ts'ai Lun (paper) to Walter Morrison (Frisbee). Some of my special favorites, in addition to the poem below, are The Light––Ah! The Light (about Marie Curie) and Winged Words (about Johann Gutenberg). Thank you, Joyce, for giving me permission to share this guess-the-inventor poem from Eureka today!

Do Ya Know 'Em?
by Joyce Sidman

Do ya know 'em? Can you guess
what they invented? Can you? Yes?
If you can, you'll get a jolt a'
James Watt and Alessandro Volta
or tap along with Samuel Morse
and Wilhelm Geiger (Count, of course).
And while you're at it, do not fail
to give a cheer for Louis Braille
and his countryman – le bon docteur
the great esteemed Louis Pasteur.

To Graf von Zeppelin, a large balloon,
with sticking pin, to make it BOOM!
And to Rudolf Diesel, clouds of smoke
to make him wheeze and gasp and choke.
Kudos to Amelia Bloomer
who must have had a sense of humor,
and to proper old Charles Macintosh
who hated rain and snow and frost.
Jules Leotard, while very vain,
flexed his muscles to stretch his brain,

while poky old Joseph Jacquard
inspected fabric by the yard.
Ever hip is Levi Strauss
whose name is known in every house;
but John McAdam – would you greet him
if on the pavement you did meet him?
And Alexandre Eiffel might,
beside his tower, seem awfully slight.
Let's hear it for Sylvester Graham
who tried to make us give up lamb

and more unhealthy stuff, in favor
of crackers that had not much flavor.
To the lusty Earl of Sandwich, cheer!
He liked his gambling and his beer
too much to stop! And so instead
he ate his meals twixt slabs of bread.
And finally let's raise our clapper
to the unforgettable Sir Thomas Crapper
who gave us something truly great:
a place to sit and contemplate.


Did you get all of those? I wasn't sure about jacquard.

James Watt – This Scottish engineer perfected the steam engine in the late 1700s and invented other devices important to the Industrial Revolution. The "watt," an electrical unit, was named for him.

Alessandro Volta – Volta, an Italian physicist, invented the forerunner of the electrical battery in 1800. The "volt," an electrical unit, was named in his honor.

Samuel Morse – Morse invented the electromagnetic telegraph in 1836, and devised a system of communicating with short and long taps (dots and dashes) known as the Morse code.

Wilhelm Geiger – In 1903, German physicist Hans Wilhelm Geiger created the "Geiger" counter, a device that detects dangerous radioactive substances invisible to the naked eye.

Louis Braille – Blind from age three, this Frenchman became a teacher, musician, and scientist. In 1853 he modified an army coding system to invent "braille," a series of raised dots and dashes that enabled the blind to read by touch.

Louis Pasteur – This influential French chemist founded the science of microbiology by proving that germs cause disease. He developed vaccines and invented "pasteurization," the method of killing bacteria in milk still used today.

Ferdinand Graf von Zeppelin – A German military officer, Zeppelin developed the rigid dirigible in 1900. This cigar-shaped passenger balloon, the "zeppelin," could be steered.

Rudolf Diesel – In 1872, this German engineer invented the internal-combustion engine, and later built the first successful "diesel" engine, utilizing low-cost diesel fuel.

Amelia Bloomer – This self-educated American reformer founded a women's rights newspaper in the 1850s. She appeared at her lectures wearing trousers gathered at the ankle (under a short skirt), which became known as bloomers.

Charles Macintosh – Throughout Great Britain, mackintosh is another word for raincoat. Macintosh invented, among other things, the first waterproof fabric in 1823.

Jules Leotard – In 1859 this French trapeze artist pioneered a tight-fitting, stretchy, one-piece garment for his circus acts. "Leotards" are now used in all areas of dance and performance.

Joseph-Marie Jacquard – The son of a French weaver, Jacquard developed a loom that could weave complex patterns mechanically, using a punch-card system. Today, the word jacquard refers to a single-color fabric with a raised, intricate weave.

Levi Strauss –- Perhaps the single-most important influence on twentieth-century fashion, Strauss invented denim blue jeans (known as Levi's) in 1873. He used innovative rivets at the pocket corners to reinforce points of strain.

John McAdam – This Scottish engineer devised a practical system of road building in 1815. Instead of expensive blocks of stone, he used several layers of crusted, compacted rock, which absorbed the weight of large loads. This type of pavement, still used today, is known as macadam.

Alexandre Gustave Eiffel – To celebrate the centennial of the French Revolution in 1889, this world-renowned French engineer designed and built the Eiffel Tower in Paris. He also helped construct Frederic Auguste Bartholdi's colossal Statue of Liberty in New York.

Sylvester Graham – Possibly the first health-food fanatic, Graham advocated cold showers, hard mattresses, and loose clothing, in addition to the unsifted whole wheat flour that still bears his name. Graham crackers are those made with graham flour.

John Montagu, earl of Sandwich – This English statesman was said to have invented the "sandwich" during an epic, twenty-four-hour gambling stint in 1762, in which he called for bread and meat to keep up his strength.

Thomas Crapper – England led the world in toilets in the 1800s, and Thomas Crapper led England. In 1872 he developed a quiet-flushing toilet utilizing a water cistern, which was known as the crapper.


We have a good group of swappers for the Winter Poem Swap. Want to join? It is a one-time swap and, in addition to sending a poem, you give a little present. Email me soon if you haven't already.

The Poetry Friday round-up is at Merely Day by Day.


  1. Hi, Tabatha. Thanks for blogging about Joyce's book today. What a great idea for an anthology! You know Little Patuxent Review is working on a science-themed issue. I'll link to your post on the LPR Facebook page.

  2. Thanks for featuring Joyce's book today -- it's one of hers I haven't seen yet. Love the idea of learning about all these inventors via free verse poems. Along with the more familiar names, it was good to hear mention of Jacquard,Volta, and Crapper. :)

  3. LOVE this book! And wow is that poem packed with info. Thanks so much for sharing.

  4. So much fun! I love inventions and the people who invent them, and I'm pleased to say that I knew ALL of those. Inventor geek, I guess. Thanks for letting me know about Joyce's new book!

  5. What a delightful poem! Is there no end of Joyce Sidman's talents? Very clever.

  6. Tabatha,
    This was fun and informative. After all where would poets be without light and a place to contemplate?


  7. Wonderful poem by Joyce Sidman! I hadn't read this collection in awhile so was pleased that you posted this poem. I love how she fits all these inventors into this one poem! Wonderful!

  8. Amazing that one poem introduces all these inventors in such an inventive way! Thanks for introducing this book.

  9. Inventors are such fun to write about. (I'll have a poem about George Nissen, the inventor of the trampoline, in Boys Quest magazine this coming February.) But who other than Joyce Sidman would have thought to include 18 in one poem!

  10. Ooohlala. This is amazing Tabatha. Joyce Sidman is simply unparalleled when it comes to nonfiction poetry. Brilliant! :) And yes, I received the poetry binder! Thank you thank you sooo much. Wonderful selections. :)

  11. A Joyce Sidman book that I don't know or have! I'm ordering it in 3, 2,!

    Thanks for a bio-poem-ically-great post!

  12. We have this book in our library, much because so many students choose 'inventors" for their unit studies. I have used it for a non-fiction poetry writing lesson-a wonderful book, as are all of Joyce Sidman's work. Thanks for sharing it, Tabatha!

  13. Hahahaha--I haven't looked at this book of Joyce's in years. It's fabulous--and I adore Joyce's serious, heart-ful poetry, but it's fun to hear her lighthearted voice, too!

  14. What a fun poem - thanks to you and to Joyce for sharing.