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Vashishtha Narayan Singh (2 April 1946 – 14 November 2019)

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Vashishtha Narayan Singh (2 April 1946 – 14 November 2019)

Vashishtha Narayan Singh was a mathematical genius who led a life of apathy and neglect. He lived his life in the shadow of his favourite subject mathematics, rarely coming out to interact with the world outside. His story was cut short by his mental illness which moved him away from mathematics. He was also an Indian academic. He taught mathematics in various institutes around the 1960s and 1970s.

Vashishtha Narayan Singh - An Unknown Genius

Vashishtha Narayan Singh was born on 2nd April 1946 in Basantpur village of Bhojpur district in Bihar. Lal Bahadur Singh and Lahaso Devi were his parents. Narayan Singh was a child prodigy. In the childhood itself, he demonstrated his ability with numbers and began to unfold the mathematical fairy tale. He completed his schooling in Netrahat Residential School and moved to Patna Science College in 1963. Narayan Singh impressed the principal of the college with his speed in studies. Then the principal of the college insisted the governor and the chancellor of the university to allow Narayan Singh to appear his three years BSc examinations in the first year itself. Later he appeared MSc examinations the next year. Narayan Singh topped both the exams and became a sensation.

vashishtha-narayan-singh

There were some apocryphal stories about Narayan Singh. While studying at Patna Science College, Narayan Singh met Professor Kelley who was then head of the department of mathematics at the University of California. Singh was given some problems to solve by Professor Kelley. Kelley was surprised to see young Narayan Singh cracking all the problems. He was impressed by this and invited Narayan Singh to the University of California, Berkeley for further studies. It was also believed that Kelley helped Singh by arranging a scholarship to pursue his education at the University of California.

He received PhD in Reproducing Kernels and Operators with a cyclic vector from the University of California, Berkeley in 1969. Then he joined NASA as an Associate Scientist Professor. Some people say that when computers at NASA stopped working for some reason, Narayan Singh was called to do some calculations. When the computers started working Singh’s calculations were matched with the calculations of the machines. It was also believed that Narayan Singh proved Albert Einstein’s E=mc2 wrong.

In the 1970s there were many gossips on this young man who is from a small village in India winning accolades in the US. Even his mathematical achievements were remarkable. So many marriage proposals have come to him. So his family members put pressure on him to marry. In 1973 Vashishtha Narayan Singh married Vandana Rani Singh but they divorced after 3 years because of Singh's schizophrenia. In 1974 he returned to India and taught at Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur for eight months. Then he joined Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Bombay and worked there on short term position. Later he worked as a faculty at Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata.

His condition worsened later and was admitted to the Central Institute of Psychiatry in Kanke and underwent treatment until 1985. Later in 1987, Vashishtha Narayan Singh returned to his village Basantpur. While he was travelling to Pune in 1989, he was missed in a train journey because of his health condition. He was found in Doriganj near Chhapra of Saran district, Bihar and was admitted to the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences, Banglore. Later in 2002, he underwent treatment at the Institute of Human Behaviour and Allied Sciences, Delhi. In 2014 at Bhupendra Narayan Mandal University in Madhepura, he was appointed as a visiting professor.

Vashishtha Narayan Singh was a silent mathematician who invented new theorems, lemmas and conjectures. The life of a mathematical genius Vashishtha Narayan Singh’s was turned upside-down by the misinformed relative and government apathy for a long time. He fought with schizophrenia for over three decades. Nobel Laureate John Forbes Nash the inventor of the ‘Nash equilibrium’ in game theory also suffered from schizophrenia. He received the best care and treatment. But in the case of Singh, nothing could help him handle his mental disorder. He was not given any respect or recognition which he deserves. He lived his life without any identity from what he has achieved and given to this world. Finally, after prolonged illness at Patna Medical College and Hospital, Narayan Singh died on 14th November 2019 at the age of 72.


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