“It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.”
—— Edmund Hillary
May 29, 1953 – For the first time in history, two men made headlines for ascending Mount Everest successfully, the highest peak in the world. Edmund Hillary, a mountaineer from New Zealand, and his Tibetan guide, Tenzing Norgay, scaled up the mountain and announced to the world, ‘Mount Everest can be conquered’.
In Edmund’s honour, Nepal declared May 29 as ‘International Everest Day’. It was first celebrated in 2008, the year in which Edmund passed away.
However, did you know, there is a man who scaled the mountain without actually ascending it? He did so by using the formula of trigonometry.
Radhanath Sikdar, the Indian Mathematician and surveyor is the first person to measure the height of Mount Everest by using the trigonometry formula. He showed the world how astronomical science could be implemented practically for surveying.
In his book, ‘Radhanath Sikdar: A Forgotten Scientist’, Dr. Sankar Kumar Nath writes that the article by Colonel S G Burrard published in ‘Nature’ on November 10, 1904, brought to light that Mount Everest was discovered by Radhanath Sikdar.
“About 1852 the chief computer of the office at Calcutta informed Sir Andrew Waugh that a peak designated XV had been found to be higher than any other hitherto measured in the world. This peak was discovered by the computers to have been observed from six different stations……”
— excerpt from Burrard’s article
Nath further writes in his book, in 1852 Radhanath was posted as the ‘Chief Computer’ of the Great Trigonometrical Survey of India, at its Calcutta office. All the calculations were done by Sikdar at the Calcutta office and Mount Everest (then known as Peak XV) was measured to be 29,002 ft (8,839m).
However, in 1856, peak XV was officially announced as ‘Mount Everest’ named after Sir George Everest, the then Director of Survey Of India. It was declared the highest peak in the world by the Royal Geographical Society.
According to Nath’s book, Sikdar’s name was removed from the preface of the book ” A Manual of Surveying for India” after the first (1851) and second edition (1855).
Radhanath passed away in May 1870 without being acknowledged for the work he did. Without his efforts, Peak XV would have been just another mountain in the Himalayas.
About the Everest
From the foot of the mountain, Mount Everest stands at 8,848 metres. Sagarmatha, the Nepali name for Everest, falls in the Sagarmatha National Park, declared a World Heritage Site in 1979. Mount Everest stands on the border between China and Nepal and mountaineers climb it from both sides.
Recently, Nepal and China jointly announced that the mountain grew 0.86m higher than its previous official calculated height. The 40 to 50 million-year-old Everest now stands tall at 8,848.86m.
One Everest, several names
Mount Everest has several names. In the 19th century, it was known as George Everest, named after a former Surveyor General of India. Tibetan’s call Everest, ‘Chomolungma’, which means ‘Mother Goddess of the World’. It was known as Peak XV back in the 80s.
Some facts about Mount Everest
-Everest was formed out of a collision of the Indian and the Eurasian tectonic plates and it continues to rise about half a metre per century.
-In 66 years, Nepal for the first time has measured the mountain on its own. Before this, in 1954, the Survey of India had determined the height (8,848m), which was being used since then.