Sign up ×
MathOverflow is a question and answer site for professional mathematicians. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I think I remember reading somewhere a glib (or is it deep?) quote, perhaps due to Rota?, which was something like

"All of combinatorics is essentially [or can be reduced to?] the representation theory of the symmetric group."

Does anyone know the actual quote / who said or wrote it / a reference to it? Or even a second-hand or third-hand reference, e.g. a paper where author X says "I've heard it said that..." or "Person Y told me that Rota once said..."

(I tried Googling, but found it difficult to come up with a query that got me quotations as opposed to lots of papers on representation theory, combinatorics, or the symmetric group. The quotation may of course be in such a paper, but the results were often so numerous as to be unhelpful.)

share|cite|improve this question
Reminds me of a thing I just read:… – Andy B May 15 '13 at 19:09
This seems to fail badly in the case of hungarian style combinatorics :) – Dan Sălăjan May 15 '13 at 19:19
The converse may be true: the representation theory of the symmetric group can be reduced to combinatorics. – Geoff Robinson May 15 '13 at 19:53
I think Igor Pak (?) once said something like "gambling is the applied representation theory of the symmetric group," but I don't have a citation so I may have just imagined this. – Qiaochu Yuan May 15 '13 at 20:31
Dan and Geoff: that's why I called it glib :). – Joshua Grochow May 15 '13 at 20:51

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.