Announcing the Winners of the Practical Pyromaniac Clerihew Contest!

Last month, we announced, here on MAKE, a contest I was running, with my publisher. The winners have been selected in Chicago Review Press’s Practical Pyromaniac Clerihew Contest. The Practical Pyromaniac is my latest book.

A clerihew is a four line, eccentrically metered, rhyming biographical poem. Easy to write and fun to read, entrants were asked to write a clerihew that describes a famous scientist, or other person or event closely associated with fire.

The Winner:

Rudolf Diesel’s
As German as measles,
But his engine stayed mobile,
So his legacy’s global.
–Kelly Robinson

The Runners Up:

The Great London Fire
Destroyed St. Paul’s choir.
The nave and transepts were burned to sticks
On the 4th of September, 1666.
— Chris Kaiser

Catherine O’Leary’s cow
Would probably disavow
Her role in the blaze of ‘seventy-one…
Too bad the witness is Well Done.
— Erik Stearns

Well over a hundred entries were received. It was a difficult task selecting the winners because of all the excellent entries. Points were awarded for topic relevance, style, and cleverness.

The following entries have been singled out for Special Mention:

The Philosopher Empedocles
Thought there were four elements, and these
Were earth and water, fire and air
He was wrong, *but* they made a square.
— Nick Muellerleile

Sir Benjamin Thompson, Count Rumford
Showed heat made when gun bored.
This example of friction,
a conservation of energy prediction.
— Ben Brockert

Baybars, Sultan of Egypt
Into his hand cannon, gunpowder tipped.
But how many klutzes lost a foot
shootin’ in the Battle of Ain Jalut?
— Elissa Malcohn

Mrs. O’Leary
Hated the theory
That it was her cow
That started that row.
— Yossef Mendelssohn

Thanks to William Crookes
And his love of science books,
We now have faithful records
Of Faraday’s Candle Lectures.
— Roger Kilbourne

Isaac Watts
Observed a lot.
He observed that observation
Is learning’s firm foundation.
— Michael Hahn

Had Herostratus
Gone on hiatus,
The shrine in Ephesus
Would not be in pieces.
— Brandon Burt

Sir Joseph Priestly
Looked at “airs” uniquely.
Phlogiston he spurned
And with O2 burned.
— Jim Fenwood

Antoine Lavoisier
Had a flawless dossier.
Hydrogen and oxygen he bred,
right until they chopped of his head.
— Ben Brockert

Sir Humphry Davy,
for miners so gravely
created a light
never to unexpectedly ignite.
— Jonathan Hammler

Are their more? You bet, tons more! See them all at

2 thoughts on “Announcing the Winners of the Practical Pyromaniac Clerihew Contest!

  1. Interestingly this German stamp is labeled in French Francs. After WW2 Saarland was occupied by France and was under French administration until 1956, when it was given back to the Federal Republic of Germany. However the Franc remained the official currency until 1959, one year after the edition of this stamp. It is a little known fact that the border between France and Germany changed after WW2.
    Sorry for being slightly off-topic but I thought it interesting :-)

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William Gurstelle is a contributing editor of Make: magazine. His new book, ReMaking History: Early Makers is now available.

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