The Great Mathematician Vashishtha Narayan Singh

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Vashishtha Narayan Singh

Vashishtha Narayan Singh was an Indian academic who belonged to Bihar. Born on 2 April 1942, he lived a full life and from a very young age, he was known as somewhat of a prodigy. Thanks to his sharp mind since childhood and great bent of mind where academics were concerned, he successfully completed his Ph.D. in the year 1969. In addition to that, in the 1960s and 70s, Vashishtha taught the subject of mathematics to learners at a number of institutes.

A few years later, he was diagnosed with the mental illness of schizophrenia that is characterized by strange speech, a reduced ability to comprehend reality and abnormal behavior. This is why, he had to leave academics completely in 1987, which is when he returned to his village. During that time, he took a train journey and got lost for a massive four years. People looked for him but he could not be located. He was finally found in the year 1992. In 2014, he returned to academics with renewed vigor.

Life Trajectory

His father was Lal Bahadur Singh and his mother was Lahaso Devi. Vashishtha was born in Bihar’s Bhojpur district in the village of Basantpur. He went on to receive his primary as well as secondary education from the famous Netarhat Residential School.

In addition to that, his college education was received from Patna Science College. It is pertinent to mention here that he even received recognition for being a student of Patna University when it allowed him to appear in the 2-year course of BSc (Hons.) in Mathematics for the first year. Later, in 1965, he also joined the well-known University of California, Berkeley where he went on to obtain a Ph.D. in the year 1969 in the subject “Reproducing Kernels and Operators with a Cyclic Vector” under John L. Kelley, who was his doctoral advisor.

Post obtaining his very well-deserved degree of Ph.D., he also joined the Washington University in the capacity of an associate professor. Later, he worked at NASA, which was another one of his noteworthy accomplishments. In 1974, he returned to India and taught at the Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur. Eight long months later, he decided to join the TIFR i.e. Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in Bombay. Furthermore, he was also appointed as a member of the faculty at Kolkata’s Indian Statistica; Institute in 1973.

Later the same year, he got married to Vandana Rani Singh but they divorced three years later because of his mental illness. This is when he was diagnosed with schizophrenia and was lost on a train journey for several years.

In the year 2014 shortly after he was found, he was given the opportunity to act as a visiting professor in Madhepur at the BNMU or Bhupendra Narayan Mandal University. He passed away on 14th November 2019 after a prolonged illness at the Patna Medical College and Hospital. It would not be wrong to say that even though this great mathematician and academic saw a lot of suffering during his lifetime, he lived a full life complete with recognitions for his work and laurels.

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