The late mathematician, Vashishtha Narayan Singh, on Saturday, was honoured with the prestigious Padma Shri, the fourth-highest civilian award of India. Ahead of the 71st Republic Day, names of 118 awardees who will be conferred with the Padma Shri Awards on Sunday have been announced. These are the people who have done extremely well in different walks of life. The awards have been given for several categories such as social work, art, and medicine.  

Vashishtha Narayan Singh

Late mathematician Vashishtha Narayan Singh was born in Basantpur village of Bhojpur district. He completed his schooling in Netarhat in undivided Bihar. Singh graduated from the Patna Science College and completed his PhD on cycle vector space theory from the University of California in 1969. He used to teach at the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, and the Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata. Singh was also a visiting professor at the BN Mandal University, Madhepura.

Vashishtha Narayan Singh’s fight with mental illness

Vashishtha Narayan Singh passed away last year on November 14, at the age of 72. The mathematician’s  journey is often compared to Ramanujan’s, but he misses out in the race because of the early occurrence of his illness. The Tamil mathematician Ramanujan passed away succumbing to his ailment – hepatic amoebiasis, while Vashishtha lost his life to schizophrenia. Vashishtha was widely cited and recognised for his 1969 PhD dissertation, ‘Reproducing Kernels and Operators with Cyclic Vector I’.

Vashishta Narayan Singh started to show the signs of mental instability during the peak of his career around 1973-74. As per media reports, by 1980 the illness had completely gripped him. He was admitted to the Kanke Mental Asylum — today the Central Institute of Psychiatry in Jharkhand. Reports say that he understood mathematics, but he spoke gibberish. He left the institution in 1985 and vanished after two years.

He was later discovered in 1989 covered in rags. It was this time when the then Chief Minister of Bihar, Lalu Prasad sent him to Nimhans (National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro-Sciences), Bangalore. Actor Shatrughan Sinha also arranged for his treatment at the Institute of Human Behaviour and Allied Sciences (IHBAS), Delhi.


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