Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Rutherford, William

RUTHERFORD, WILLIAM (1798?–1871), mathematician, was born about 1798. He was a master at a school at Woodburn from 1822 to 1825, when he went to Hawick, Roxburghshire, and he was afterwards (1832–1837) a master at Corporation Academy, Berwick. In 1838 he obtained a mathematical post at the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, where he was popular with his pupils. His mode of instruction was practical and clear. Rutherford was a member of the council of the Royal Astronomical Society from 1844 to 1847, and honorary secretary in 1845 and 1846. He is said to have been well versed in both theoretical and practical astronomy, and interested in the proceedings of the society, but did not contribute to its ‘Transactions.’ He sent many problems and solutions and occasional papers to the ‘Lady's Diary’ from 1822 to 1869, and also contributed to the ‘Gentlemen's Diary.’ He always delighted in a ‘pretty problem,’ although his mathematical studies were quite of the old north-country type. He was a friend of Woolhouse. He retired from his post at Woolwich about 1864, and died on 16 Sept. 1871, at his residence, Tweed Cottage, Maryon Road, Charlton, at the age of seventy-three.

Rutherford was the editor, in conjunction with Stephen Fenwick and (for the first volume only) with Thomas Stephen Davies, of ‘The Mathematician,’ vol. i. 1845, vol. ii. 1847, vol. iii. 1850, to which he contributed many papers. He edited ‘Simson's Euclid’ (1841, 1847) and Hutton's ‘Course of Mathematics,’ ‘remodelled for R.M.A., Woolwich,’ 1841, 1846, 1854, 1860; Bonnycastle's ‘Algebra,’ with William Galbraith, 1848; Thomas Carpenter's ‘Arithmetic,’ 1852, 1859; Tyson's ‘Key to Bonnycastle's Arithmetic,’ 1860; and published: 1. ‘Computation of π to 208 Decimal Places (correct to 153),’ (‘Phil. Trans.’), 1841. 2. ‘Demonstration of Pascal's Theorem’ (‘Phil. Mag.’), 1843. 3. ‘Theorems in Co-ordinate Geometry’ (‘Phil. Mag.’) 1843. 4. ‘Elementary Propositions in the Geometry of Co-ordinates’ (with Stephen Fenwick), 1843. 5. ‘Earthwork Tables’ (with G. K. Sibley), 1847. 6. ‘Complete Solution of Numerical Equations,’ 1849. 7. The Arithmetic, Algebra, and Differential and Integral Calculus in ‘Course of Mathematics for R.M.A. Woolwich,’ 1850. 8. ‘The Extension of π to 440 Places’ (‘Royal Soc. Proc.’ 1853, p. 274). 9. ‘On Statical Friction and Revetments,’ 1859. Among several mathematical pamphlets he wrote one on the solution of spherical triangles.

[Monthly Notices Royal Astronom. Soc. 1871–1872, p. 146; Allibone; Brit. Mus. Cat.; information from Mr. W. J. Miller, Richmond-on-Thames.]

W. F. S.