International Year of the Periodic Table


Element Limerick Competition Results


1869 is considered the birth of the Periodic Table of Elements. 2019 is the 150th anniversary of the Periodic Table of Chemical Elements and has therefore been proclaimed the “International Year of the Periodic Table of Chemical Elements (IYPT2019)” by the United Nations General Assembly and UNESCO.

To celebrate this the New Zealand Institute of Chemistry (NZIC) held an element-themed limerick competition. The competition was open to chemistry and poetry enthusiasts of all ages. We got so many excellent entries – thank you all for participating!

1st Prize $300 and a copy of Scientific Sleuthing

2nd Prize $200 and a copy of Scientific Sleuthing

3rd Prize $100 and a copy of Scientific Sleuthing

Entries were assessed on:

  • Originality and creativity
  • Accuracy of the chemistry featured in the limerick
  • Composition, including rhythm and rhyme

Prize Winners

First prizeAnna GreaneyThe element Bromine - B - r
A brown liquid you'll find in a jar
To distinguish between
An alkane and alkene
Orange to colourless - ta da!
Second prizeDavid PerlA hydrogen all on its own
has a wavefunction, perfectly known.
But combined with another,
as Erwin discovered,
a solution just can't be shown.
Third prizeDelene Holm“It’s better to give than receive”
said hydrogen, aiming to please.
“My electron is yours.
Please take it because
I’m positive after it leaves.”
Highly commendedBernard HarrisRutherford inspired Geiger to toil,
“Shoot some alpha at thin gold foil.”
The nucleus revealed,
Plum pudding form repealed,
To our favourite son we are loyal.
Highly commendedRichard CapenhurstThe Curies – Marie and Pierre
In science a well known pair
But safety’s ho hum
handling Curium
Which is why they began losing their hair.
Highly commendedDavid GoodwinHydrogen's a gas that goes pop,
But small test tubes can be quite a flop,
When collected en masse,
It's an explosive gas,
And likely to bring in the cops.

Other Entries

A. BrookeI once knew an unusual grasshopper,
who was made entirely of copper.
He jumped so high,
that he touched the sky,
and on the way down he came a cropper
A. BrookeThere once was a woman of zinc
who in the sun never turned pink.
She was hearty and hale,
And drank ginger-ale,
Her complexion would make you blink.
A. BrookeThere once was a man made from tin,
who grew surprisingly thin.
It made him so light,
that in a terrible fright,
he fell in the garbage bin.
A. BrookeThere once was a funny old man,
who thought “I’ll see if I can
drink arsenic neat
till it reaches my feet!”
Alas, for a terrible plan…
Amy BrookeThere once was a bright lad called Jim
whose parents were quite fond of him.
alas, the poor child,
growing exceedingly wild
licked lead paint and grew rather dim.
Amy BrookeI shine with a tungsten-like glow
- as silver or gold do below -
you can look far and wide
but in darkness I hide
I’m phosphorus, as you well know!
Amy BrookeHave carbon and oxygen, each an old friend
truly combined for a dubious end?
Or have they I wonder
like lightning and thunder
some sort of timely message to send?
Amy BrookeMy poor brain is tired, and they say
magnesium is needed each day
as my nerves are quite shredded
with this notion embedded
I’ll keep woolly thinking at bay.
Amy BrookeThere once was a young boy called Jim
who, so very able
learnt the periodic table
at one sitting -
just on a whim.
Amy BrookeI’d like to fly high like a kite
with helium, as high as I might
but alas, as you see
I’m not quite lead-free
so I don’t think I’m ready for flight!
Amy BrookePotassium please! said my heart
fruit and veggies will make a good start,
if you’re not eating well
it’s not hard to tell
you and I are destined to part.
Andrea MascarenhasHelium is element two
Discovered in space first, who knew?
You are so gassy
It's just so classy
That our voice goes squeaky, it’s true!
Andrea MascarenhasKrypton you are a noble gas
You’re a rare one on earth to pass
You’re not reactive
Some go inactive
That being Superman, alas!
Bernard HarrisWe used to do plumbing with lead
But folks kept on falling down dead,
It seems much more proper,
To make pipes of copper
And put lead in batteries instead.
Bernard HarrisYou’ve all heard of the element: krypton?
It’s not the one Superman tripped on.
That’s krypton-ite,
A fictional blight
Which weakens that Marvel-lous icon.
Bernard HarrisClaiming our sustainable dream,
Small carbon footprints are our theme.
“But,” said Fed Farmers,
“Lest it should harm us,
Ban the Emissions Trading Scheme.
Brayden CarrI have a box of manganese
My friend Yan can speak Chinese
Yan drank mercury and later died
If I said mercury was magnetic I would've lied
His corpse was put into a cryogenic chamber and he would freeze
Brayden CarrI had a spoonful of bromine
It was quite irritating
So please don’t inhale it in
It’s way more toxic than yttrium
But at least it’s not chlorine
Brayden CarrThere was an old man who ate some Lead
Surely he’d soon be dead
He felt hyperactive
But he’d decided to be inactive
That’s all that he’d had said
Brian WilkinsThere's not much to see in an orbital
But the faithful believe it's all logical
Whatever we think
With a nod and a wink
They tell us it's just philosophical
Chris AllenTo ignore Group One
Would be utterly wrong
Cos after they’ve glowed,
They’ll always explode
So your lessons never last too long
Chris AllenAn old man addicted to caffeine,
tried swapping his coffee for chlorine,
He turned deathly white,
and felt utterly shite,
So tomorrow he’s changing to fluorine
Claudia BealThere once was a man called Sadium
Who had a great big Cranium
He worked away
And needless to say
He managed to create titanium
Colin OgleWhen about to take to the podium
'Twas apparent I'd had too much sodium
My arteries had hardened
From speaking I was pardoned
And the fright gave me need for immodium!
Colin OgleHydrogen you're a powerful gas,
With oh so very little mass.
Though not coloured green,
You burn so clean,
Handled poorly all is gone, alas!
Colin OgleHydrogen you're a powerful gas,
No, not the kind we think is crass.
You're clean and green,
And can power a machine.
But let you slip out....kaboom! Alas!
Colin OgleSome say you cause catastrophic pollution
That surely will end human evolution
But Carbon you are everywhere,
In earth, the sea, up in the air.
And so in your cycle we seek a solution.
D. BrookeA ride on a coppery yak costs a nickel,
and her silvery hairs they do tickle.
The golden sun laughs,
at her mercurial path,
and her sulfurous wind makes me sick-ill.
David GoodwinOxygen's an element with sass,
32 is its atomic mass,
It combusts rather freely,
A liquid that tealy,
And a reactive, colourless gas.
David Perl[please note, stanza 1 of this limerick won the second prize]

A hydrogen all on its own
has a wavefunction, perfectly known.
But combined with another,
as Erwin discovered,
a solution just can't be shown.

Nitrogen, oxygen, carbon,
are formed in the centres of stars from
nuclei smashed together
by gravity's pressure
'til all the light elements are gone.

Those four are what life's mostly based on
but they aren't quite enough just on their own.
To truly be prosperous,
life also needs phosphorus
in esters in DNA's backbone.

After a few billion years
some hominids came to appear
and for ages they didn't
define what's 'an element'
until one Antione Lavoisier.

Soon the known elements trebled,
but no one was ever quite able
to make a good system
to arrange the list, then
Mendelev came up with his table.

A burner created by Bunsen
(the very same guy who had found the
element caesium)
couldn't make heat to
the point where it would melt some tungsten.

Neon is a noble gas,
inertness almost unsurpassed,
but right next door in
spot number nine's fluorine,
so careful for which one you ask!

Haber and Bosch made ammonia
for bombs, over iron or osmium,
but we realised it
could be fertiliser
so now I can grow my begonias.

After nineteen twenty-two
we saw there was much work to do:
though Hafnium's stable,
since then we've been able
to create some unstable ones too.

There was a chemist named Wittig,
desiring some nucleophilic
attack by a carbon
and that was a hard one
so he formed a phosphonium ylid.

Akira Suzuki was struggling
to perform a carbon cross-coupling,
but palladium and base
put a smile on his face,
and he gained a Nobel for his puzzling.

These chemicals, we've come to know 'em,
and this year's the year that we show 'em:
what we see here today,
in some kind of way,
is that elements wrote us this poem.
Delene HolmThere once were grey atoms of iron
who wanted some colours to try on.
They lost all their sheen
Turned rust or soft green
when changing from atoms to ions.
Delene HolmThere once was a boy from NZ
who made pots and pans out of lead.
He grew very strong
But didn’t last long
When he sickened and ended up dead
(he should have studied chemistry)
Delene Holm“My red-brown is better than yours”
said Copper to Silver “because
no other’s like me
you’re all grey you see
which makes you no better than bores.”

Said Silver to Copper “It’s true,
But what happens when I couple with you?
Your reddish-brown colour
will quickly turn duller
and make you become very blue.”
E. BrookeThere was an old horse called tin,
he went for a ride on a pin,
He found some metal,
as soft as a petal…
…that metal was sodium.
Ethan WoollyOxygen is needed to breathe
Without it you’ll be down on your knees
Not in a fun way
But in utter dismay
Choking, gasping, aggrieved
Ethan WoollyLithium and sodium is a salt
Mixing water and Potassium was my fault
I didn't read the enchantment
Now there is fire in the apartment
That's what I get for joining a cult.
Ethan WoollyTungsten is a trickery fellow
Perhaps because it's symbol is W (said double y'all)
Known as Wolfram for the Germans
But I'm a little uncertain
Of the speed of a unladed swallow
Ethan WoollyNear the end is Element one two one,
Being so large Isn't very fun
It's hypothetical you see
In the proposed island of stability
I doubt we could make a ton.
Ethan WoollyHelium is lighter than air
Fly without a care
Don't use hydrogen to float
It's flammable you dope!
Your Hindenburg within the year
Gary McSweeneyHere on Earth we tend to think Carbon
Is better to make humans than Argon.
Superman said “Pardon “
As he didn’t like Carbon
“Why don’t you all try Krypton ?”
Georgie Snelder There was a young man called Della Mente
Who by chance discovered the element
Unfortunate for him,
It was done on a whim
So now he is sadly irrelevant
Ian ThomasAlways eating his food far too quickly,
Ate Carbon to feel much less sickly.
Now full of gas,
He’s a pain in the ass
And wobbles from side to side fickly
Jenna Davison and Amy Hay There once was a chemist called Dimitri
Whose love for science ran deeply
He organised the table
Then started to label
And changed science completely
Joel CornelioI tripped on a stone back in Sweden
With elements this stone was laden
Some lanthanides, it all made sense
With sharp lines of fluorescence
Now their chromatography, oh what a burden!
Joel CornelioIn Scotland, we were drunk and messy
Seeing crimson flames, turned us fussy
Burn in water, burn in air
This one’s got no flair
That was Strontium, trying to be Nessie!
Joel CornelioI loaned electrons from the manganese bank
Only seven I could take, they were frank
Return the seven, at least five
Or Sir Permanganate would oxidise me alive
Took only two away, yet manganese shrank
Joel CornelioLife is difficult, if you’re always greedy
Lady Fluorine, for one electron she was needy
Even glass blew his stopper
Until she passivated copper
They’re a couple now, opened a bar, very seedy.
Johnnie FraserThere was a young man who was asanine,
He tried to gather up all the Astatine,
There isn’t much in the earth
Which has a massive girth
So it was rather an utter waste-of-time.
Joshua PliegerCaesium was kinda aloof
Her friend hydrogen was a goof
He gave her some water
I'm Sure That Has Got Her
And Boom he was out on the roof
Karen LyonsThere was a French Man named Lavoisier
Who said, “there’s something odd in the air,
Forget your Phlogiston,
it’s all down to oxygen.
Combustion is really extraordinaire.
Rose ThompsonDimitri Mendeleev one day,
Created what we know today,
Hydrogen first,
Plutonium worst,
The table of elements display.
Ryan TaitMagnesium
Sam CurrieThe beautiful princess Elizabeth
Had palaces built out of Bismuth
Their fine iridescence
Exalted her presence
And left the king all in a tiz-muth
Sam McIntyreA typical day of Chemistry Outreach

It begins with the spectacular cauldron of fire,
With colourful flames, and sparkles to admire.
Red from strontium,
With glittery magnesium,
A dazzling display guaranteed to inspire.

A super-saturated solution, of sodium acetate,
Is the perfect way, to challenge a mate.
To build a stalagmite,
Both tall, and white.
A simple, yet exothermic, trihydrate.

How about, the red cabbage indicator,
An experiment, that can be tried later.
With household acid and base,
And, a smile on their face
A young scientist, becomes, a painter.

Now it’s time to make a mess
Some crosslinking chemistry, take a guess
Slime you say.
Borax and PVA,
Never anything, short of success.

It finishes up with liquid Nitrogen,
The wart removing, cryogen.
A long white fountain cloud,
Never fails to please a crowd
But, nothing beats, a teddy bear explosion!
Sarah MastersThere was an element called sodium
That wanted to be on the podium
It tried very hard
But still ran like lard
And the prize went instead to rhodium
Shane TelferThere was a young man from Massey
Who thought himself quite sassy
But he tried a reaction
With too much potassium
And the flaming lab was not classy.

Had he learnt his lesson, you wonder
But the store still had plenty to plunder
Ammonia and iodine when combined
Is not an elixir for mankind
But awakes the gods with its thunder
Sienna GarrickThere are one-hundred and eighteen elements
which were discovered with lots of intelligence
First came hydrogen
then along came nitrogen
and the rest we could call irrelevant
Sophie PalmerOut in the sun with my zinc
I realized it was pink
I put it on my nose and toes
My skin went rose
To the doctor is best I think
Sue FrostThere was a young man called Tom,
Who liked to eat Boron,
He ate it night,
With all his might,
And now he’s a total moron
Tristan RileyTake a deep breath of oxygen
Next inhale invisible phlostigen.
Only two mice and myself
Have inhaled from the beehive shelf
Pure air may become fashionable again
W. BrookeThere once was an old man called Brian,
who thought he had muscles of iron
until he was told,
they were actually gold!
That metallic old man known as Brian.
W. BrookeI’ve heard of a man known as phosphorus
who dreamt he was beautifully lustrous.
Until he awoke,
and went up in smoke,
That flammable man known as phosphorus.
W. BrookeI knew of a man made from tin
Who was quite incredibly dim.
Until he met radon,
who said he’d been rained on,
That extremely dim man made from tin.
W. BrookeA girl I knew once smelt of sulphur,
she was a most talented golfer.
When she hit the ball,
it flew over them all,
That girl golfer whose perfume was sulphur.