Technically, 5th July but 4th July is far more interesting. Not only because of crazy Americans and their sparkly, annual parabolic envelopes in the sky, but also because this day in 1906 marks the birth of Prof. Daniel Edwin Rutherford – a Scottish lecturer of mathematics and applied mathematics, mainly at St Andrew’s University (not to be confused with Ernest Rutherford, who was responsible for the maths behind the data analysis of the aptly named Rutherford Scattering phenomena in 1911!).

The ‘Dan’ Rutherford I choose to speak of today was an algebraeist and an editor of textbooks, whose main contribution to mathematical literature was an analysis of Alfred Young’s papers on symmetric groups. From what I can remember of my brief ‘Introduction to Abstract Algebra’ module in year 1, a symmetric group S_{n }on a finite set A is the set of all the bijections (permutations) from A={1,2…,n} to itself, along with a binary operation (e.g. composition of functions) to make it into a group by definition. Do correct me if I’m wrong.

Sadly, this is probably the most I could tell you about Rutherford’s work at this point in time, as some of his other research areas included Lattice Theory and Boolean Algebra – the latter of which has an intriguingly sounding name. It also has to do with that ghastly topic called Logic. I am not a logician. I don’t think I ever will be. The stuff baffles me more than Relativity, believe it or not.