Mathematician and Bridge Master
CLASS OF 1939
Dr. Mariano Garcia took a leap of faith when he came to W&J, a bold step that took him from Puerto Rico to southwesternPennsylvania. As the recipient of a full-tuition scholarship to Washington & Jefferson College, Garcia left his birthplace of San Juan without any money to attend a school he had never seen before. Lillian Weirich, matron of W&J’s Caldwell House, helped Garcia adjust to American life, and professors like Dr. Howard Shaub in the mathematics department guided and challenged him. He often had lunch with Shaub and says that they had “great discussions.” “The homework was hard, but the teachers were always willing to help you,” he recalls. After Garcia earned his undergraduate degree, Shaub served as his master’s thesis advisor. A few years later, Garcia received his doctorate in mathematics from the University of Virginia.
Garcia simply loves numbers. “Mathematics has been the love of my life, but the passion of my life is amicable numbers,” he says. (Amicable numbers are twointegers for which the sum ofthe divisors of one number, excluding the number itself, equals the other.) Even though he is currently retired, Garcia and a team of researchers continue in this mathematical research. In 2001, Garcia announced that he had discovered more than one million new amicable pairs, bringing to more than two million the total of known amicable numbers and strengthening the validity of the as-yet unproven conjecture that there are infinitely many such pairs. Garcia also discovered one of the largest amicable pairs known to date, with 5,577 digits in each number.
When he’s not searching for amicable numbers, Garcia loves to play bridge. This passion dates from his years at W&J when he once stayed up all night on a weekday before a test to play. (He passed the test.) Garcia has now attained the status of diamond life master in the American Contract Bridge League. He has to his credit more than 5,000 master points, which puts him in the upper 1 percent nationally.
Garcia remembers his education at W&J as being very personalized. He was very thankful to his professors for focusing on his individual needs as a student, a practice he carried on in his own teaching in Puerto Rico and at several colleges in the United States.