Vashishtha Narayan Singh (2 April 1946 – 14 November 2019) was an Indian academic. Singh was born on 2 April 1946 to Lal Bahadur Singh, a police constable, and Lahaso Devi in the Basantpur village of the Bhojpur district in Bihar, India.
He received his primary and secondary education from Netarhat Residential School, and he received his college education from Patna Science College. He received recognition as a student when he was allowed by Patna University to appear for examination in the first year of its three-year BSc (Hons.) Mathematics course and later MSc examination the next year.
He joined the University of California, Berkeley in 1965 and received a PhD in Reproducing Kernels and Operators with a Cyclic Vector (Cycle Vector Space Theory) in 1969 under doctoral advisor John L. Kelley.
After receiving his PhD, Singh joined the University of Washington at Seattle as an assistant professor, and then returned to India in 1974 to teach at Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur. After eight months, he joined Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), Bombay where he worked on a short-term position. Later he was appointed a faculty at the Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata.
Singh was awarded the Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian award of India, posthumously in 2020. It was in this college where Vashishtha’s genius was spotted by his classmates and teachers. During his classes, he used to ask so many questions to teachers who would invariably become irritated. The then principal of Patna Science College, N S Nagendra Nath, was so impressed with Vashishtha that he met the then Patna University vice-chancellor George Jacob and requested him to let the boy appear for the BSc final year honours examination even before clearing the Part I examination.
Schizopherenia leads to his demise
He was soon diagnosed with schizophrenia. The reported mismatch in his married life and some sort of disappointment in his professional career caused mental imbalance in the genius.
From formula picker to rag picker.
He was admitted to the Central Institute of Psychiatry in Ranchi from where he was released in 1985. Then he went missing for several years. In February 1993, he was found picking rags near a roadside dhaba at Doriganj in Chapra. He was brought to his native place and his plight was highlighted in the national media. The then Union HRD minister Arjun Singh arranged for his treatment at NIMHANS, Bangalore. But he could not stay there for long and discharged from the hospital.
No credits for achievements he gained.
His family wants him to be remembered and are demanding a Bharat Ratna award, a central university named after him and a state holiday. Whether these demands will be fulfilled, it is yet to be seen. He is often compared to another Indian, mathematical genius, the Tamil mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan. Like, Ramanujan, Singh too had no formal training in maths and his talent was discovered in a small town of Bihar. Singh and Ramanujan, both traveled to distant lands (the USA and Britain respectively) where they made a name from themselves. However, unlike Ramanuja, Singh never received the same amount of stardom and fame. He has gone down into the annals of history, not for his mathematical prowess but for the genius that went mad