Who First Measured the Height of Mount Everest?

Did you ever wonder who first measured the height of Mount Everest?

Contrary to popular belief, the majestic height of Mt Everest was not first calculated by George Everest. This amazing feat was accomplished by a brilliant mathematician that has unfortunately been forgotten.

In 1830, George Everest was serving as the Surveyor-General of India. The following year after being first assigned, Everest was aggressively searching for a topographer or mathematician to help conduct his  Great Trigonometric Survey for the region.

Finding the Man for Measuring the Height of Mt Everest

who first measured the height of Mount EverestA regional university math professor sent to him a -19-year-old named Radhanath Sikdar. Sikdar was originally from Bengal and was actually quite popular as he was an active member of the  Young Bengal movement. This group was comprised of a free-spirited nonconformist who rebelled against some of the traditional customs such as entering into arranged marriages and the like. In fact, young Sikdar walked away and refused to marry a young girl that had been arranged for him.

But his activism was not the only thing he was well known for. His mathematical skills had also drawn a lot of attention from the community. While working for Everest and following his direction, Sikdar’s popularity soared as he was immediately recognized for his both his technical skills and his intellectual innovations. In fact, Sikdar wound up developing quite a few new ways to measure and calculated a variety of metrics. Many of those methods have more than outlived him.

In the end, Sikdar worked for the Survey across the span of over two decades. Sadly, he was not treated very fairly for a man his great talent. There were editions of surveyor manuals that completely ignored his contributions. And other occasions, when Sikdar pointed out that the Survey had taken advantage of several of its workers; he was punished with a hefty fine for what they called ‘impudence’. And because his work was so valuable, Sikdar’s attempts to change jobs were denied by Everest on bogus grounds.

And after all this, the insults were not over for Sikdar. After George Everest retired, Sikdar continued to perform his mapping and calculating under Everest’s successor Andrew Waugh. Sikdar demonstrated through his many calculations that a ‘Peak XV’ was actually the world’s highest peak when measured from sea-level. Waugh concurred with these calculations eventually.

However, even though it had been the Survey’s tradition to label mountain peaks in accordance with the names that the local villagers called them, Waugh had decided to part with these traditions and he named this illustrious peak after … Everest. There was one scholarly group at that time that fully acknowledged Sikdar’s contributions and accomplishments while he was at the Survey.  Sadly, even though he had many incredible contributions, Sikdar has been forgotten for the most part.

During the year of 1854, he and a friend started a Bengali journal known as Masik Patrika. , The purpose of this publication was for the empowerment and education of women. His writing style was praised for its simplicity and candor – which was not the way public writing was done at the time.

Sikdar wound up retiring in 1862 from service. He later became a teacher of mathematics at what is now Scottish Church College. On 17 May 1870, he at Gondalpara, Chandannagar in a villa that resided by the Ganga.

So when you wonder who first measured the height of Mount Everest, you will know it was Radhanath Sikdar.