In 1852, a mathematician working for the Great Trigonometric Survey of India, Radhanath Sikhdar, thought he had discovered the highest summit in the world. This was confirmed several years later by the Surveyor-General of India, George Everest.
In 1816, Everest became assistant to Colonel Lambton, who was about to start the long and hard task of the Trigonometric Survey, a task that finally took 25 years.
What made George Everest good at his job was the fact that he was an innovator. He modified and altered existing equipment to make work smoother. Also, by appointing Henry Barrow as ‘Instrument Maker for the Sub-continent’ he ensured that theodolites could be repaired in India instead of being sent back to Britain.
For years, Everest and his team trekked across the deserts, jungles and mountains of India. Finally, he completed the longest trigonometrical survey ever attempted.
In 1843, George Everest retired. In 1856, when the British were wondering what name to give to the imposing mountain, his successor as the Surveyor-General, Andrew Waugh, suggested Everest’s name. The mountain was already called ‘Chomolungma’ by the Tibetans and ‘Sagarmatha’ by the Nepalese.
Sir George Everest protested against the mountain being named after him – he wasn’t one to chase fame. But his objections were overlooked and the mountain was called ‘Everest’.
Technically though, his name was pronounced Eve-rest (‘Eve’ as a woman’s name), but we all call the mountain Ever-est.
Sir George Everest lived for 11 years in Mussoorie in a house that he bought sight unseen from General Whish. Though the house has a gorgeous view of the Doon Valley and the Himalayan Range, it is not well-preserved and several people scribble graffiti on the walls.
Hopefully, authorities will recognize the need to keep heritage sites safe and preserve them and Sir Everest’s house will welcome visitors once more after all these years.