I first saw this poem outside some professor’s door at the University of Nebraska (who? Gary Meisters, maybe?) around 1995. I don’t know who the original author is.
Percy P was a mathematician
whose “pureness” was never denied.
But he found one day, to his sorrow,
that his theorems had been applied!
He had used all the standard precautions;
his papers were pointedly dry!
But his own esoteric notation
had been solved by a physicist spy!
The colloquium buzzed with the gossip;
he could offer no valid excuse.
Percy P was a traitor of traitors,
for his work was of PRACTICAL USE!
Nobody dared to defend him.
Could it be that he’d plead the crime
That his work was just then needed
to effect quantization of time?
Ignored when he joined conversations;
one would think that he poisoned the air.
And he felt on his way to the office –
a new man might be in his chair.
A committee was in operation,
working twenty four hours a day,
Deleting his name from the journals,
and throwing his reprints away.
He knew where his future was leading,
no sense in prolonging the pain;
He left with a handful of papers,
and never was heard from again.
So take heed all you mathematicians
who pretend your endeavor is pure;
Tho’ your luck may hold for a decade,
in the end you can never be sure.