Tag Archives: mnemonics

Thank You, Roy G. Biv

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Test tubes and other recipients in chemistry lab

Photo by Horia Varlan. Used under Creative Commons CC BY 2.0 license. No changes were made.

My high school chemistry lab violated the laws of time. Two periods of chemistry class lasted years. Every day, I expected to walk out of the lab and find that the school had crumbled around us, swept away by the eons that had passed while we were in that class.

I enjoy science. Chemistry could have been an enjoyable class. It should have been an enjoyable class.

It was not an enjoyable class.

The teacher had a way of droning on and on…. and on. He also had a remarkable talent for making students feel particularly stupid. He would ask very pointed questions — often off topic — and would get a smug, yet gleeful, look on his face when the poor kid didn’t get it right.

The room had two long lab tables with black countertops and cheap built-in storage underneath. Each table had stations with sinks and burners. We sat at desks that were attached to the lab tables. I sat about 4 seats back.

One day, the teacher was droning on and on…. and on… about something. I may or may not have been talking to the kid sitting across from me. Suddenly, there was the shortest of pauses in the droning, followed by a much louder, “And we all know the colors of the spectrum in order, don’t we, Amy?”

Suddenly, every pair of eyes in the class were on me.

Some part of my brain must have been paying attention to the droning. Without missing a beat, I looked up and responded, “Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet.”

My chemistry teacher didn’t quite know how to react, especially since it wasn’t a topic even close to what we had covered in class. All he could muster was, “Yes. Very good,” and returned to his droning.

The bell rang at the end of the first period and the class got up for our 4-minute respite before the second epoch of chemistry class. As I was walking out to get a drink of water, the teacher pulled me aside.

“How did you know the order?” he asked me in a rather puzzled tone.

“My dad taught me ‘Roy G. Biv’ – the name is the colors in order.”

My teacher shook his head. “Wow, I didn’t think anyone remembered Roy G. Biv.”

My dad remembered and he taught me. On that day in my junior year of high school, I was very thankful for Roy G. Biv.

Rainbow in northern Michigan

Roy G. Biv in action. Northern Michigan, October 2014. Photo by Amy Crow.