Dear Quote Investigator: over there is a popular comical limerick around a young woman called White or Bright that highlights the counterintuitive nature that time dimensions in Einstein’s concept of relativity. Do you know this poem? do you know who created it?

Quote Investigator: The earliest proof known to QI appeared in an concern of the London feeling magazine “Punch” in 1923. Initially, the limerick “Relativity” was released without attribution: 1


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There was a young lady named BrightWhose rate was much faster than light;She set out one dayIn a relative wayAnd reverted on the vault night.

In 1937 a Professor the Botany called A. H. Reginald Buller created a letter come “The Observer” newspaper in London and claimed authorship the the limerick. Top quotation recommendations such as “The Yale book of Quotations” 2 and also “Cassell’s feeling Quotations” 3 assistance the ascription come Buller. Details for this 1937 citation space given additional below.

Here are extr selected citations in chronological order.

The editor of “Punch” took pleasure in the limerick and also referenced it in later on issues. Right here is an instance in 1924 when component of the limerick was offered in a barb aimed at an additional periodical: 4

“The hardier roses proceed to bloom, and the later chrysanthemums and also a few precocious perennials aid to contrive a belated gaiety.”—Daily Paper.

This need to be the garden of the young lady who—“Went the end one dayIn a family member wayAnd reverted on the previous night.”

Many sport of the limerick gotten in circulation throughout the ensuing decades. In February 1925 a newspaper in Poughkeepsie, new York printed the following version in i m sorry the second and third lines were different: 5

Speaking of the theory of Relativity, Jonathan Cape the English publisher, prints in his small booklet a compensation “silliness” based upon the renowned Mr. Einstein’s clinical theory:

There was a young lady called BrightWhose rate was much quicker than light.She went off one dayIn a loved one way,And changed on the ahead night.

In September 1926 one more version that the rhyming present were published in the “Cortland Standard” of new York and the “Los Angeles Times” of California. The words were attributed come a prelate: 6 7

This limerick on the Einstein concept was composed by the Bishop the Chelmsford:

There to be a young lady called Bright,Who would travel much much faster than light,She began one dayIn a loved one wayAnd came earlier the previous night.

In October 1926 a book reviewer in “Punch” newspaper referenced the poem, yet used the expression “young lady of Light” rather of “young lady named Bright”: 8

…a guy with a properly occurred sense that the past may step throughout into another duration in time, together into another country in space—not completely unlike the young lady the Light who went out one day in a relative way and went back on the previous night.

A. H. Reginald Buller to be a Professor that Botany in ~ the college of Manitoba which is located in Winnipeg, Manitoba. In April 1927 the “Manitoba free Press” i m sorry is additionally based in Winnipeg printed a version of the limerick, and also this time Buller was credited: 9

When everybody to be talking around Einstein and Relativity, Professor Buller provided me a clever Limerick which he had just perpetrated, together deft as the an extremely cleverest that Chesterton’s, and as spontaneous:

“There was a young lady named Bright,Whose speed was much faster 보다 light;She set out one dayIn a family member wayAnd returned residence the ahead night.”


In September 1927 the limerick was printed in one more Canadian periodical. This instance referred come a lady dubbed White rather of Bright: 10

There was a young lady called WhiteWhose velocity was better than light;She went off one dayIn a relative wayAnd went back on the ahead night.

In 1937 Buller created a letter come “The Observer” in London after see a variation of the limerick released in the paper. Buller asserted the he produced the verse, and he questioned the situations of that composition: 11

As the author of the Relativity limerick perhaps I may be permitted to say that the limerick to be made by me around fifteen years ago whilst sitting in the garden of my friend and former colleague, Dr. G. A, Shakespear, Lecturer top top Physics at the university of Birmingham.

After conversing together on Einstein’s theory, I said that we must each try to do a relativity limerick. At the end of about five minutes the limericks were ready and were exchanged, but with nothing an ext than a trace of mutual admiration.

Buller declared that 2 years later on he to visit a scientific meeting, and also he recited the limerick to fellow scientists that laughed and applauded. Soon afterward a reporter because that the “Winnipeg totally free Press” called him that the work should be submitted to “Punch”:

On getting here at the college I wrote out the limerick and also at as soon as sent it turn off to Punch. Six weeks later I got from the editor a copy the “Punch” through my limerick in it, and also an honorarium that a couple of shillings. The day of publication was December 19, 1923.

Buller’s letter had a variation of the poem which he declared was the original. Interestingly, the fifth line differed native the version printed in “Punch”. Buller also provided that other ascriptions were being disseminated:

There to be a young lady called Bright,Whose speed was much faster 보다 light;She collection out one day,In a loved one way,And returned house the ahead night.

Since the relativity limerick was released I have noted that at various times it has been attributed to 3 bishops and to a popular American authoress!—Yours etc.,A. H. Reginald Buller,Emeritus Professor the Botany, college of Manitoba.Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

In conclusion, QI believes the Buller was the most likely composer of this limerick. The words were attributed come him by 1927, and also his 1937 letter was credible. Also, QI has found no substantive counter-claims.

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Image notes: Timepiece indigenous geralt top top Pixabay. Albert Einstein in 1921 indigenous Wikipedia.