The man who measured height of Everest

In the archives of history, some names shine brightly, while others remain hidden in the shadows, waiting to be discovered and celebrated. One such name is Radhanath Sikdar, an unsung hero whose remarkable contributions to science and mathematics was to accurately measure the height of Everest. This is the story of the man who measured the world’s highest peak, Mount Everest, and left an unforgettable mark on the history of cartography and geodesy.

Early Life of a Genius

Born on October 1813 in the bustling city of Kolkata, Radhanath Sikdar exhibited an exceptional talent for mathematics from a young age. His brilliance caught the attention of his teachers, who nurtured his potential and guided him towards higher education. Under the guidance of revolutionary educator Henry Louis Vivian Derozio, Sikdar excelled in mathematics at the esteemed Hindu College (now Presidency University) in Kolkata. Derozio, who was well-known for his radical viewpoints and support of critical thought, was essential in molding Sikdar’s analytical mind.

Joining the Great Trigonometrical Survey

In 1831, Sikdar’s life took an unexpected and thrilling turn when he joined the Great Trigonometrical Survey of India. This ambitious project, led by the meticulous and demanding British surveyor Sir George Everest, aimed to map the entire Indian subcontinent with unparalleled accuracy. Amidst the oppressive colonial backdrop, Sikdar emerged as a star, dazzling his British counterparts with his exceptional skills and dedication. He quickly rose through the ranks, earning a reputation as a mathematical wizard.

Measuring the height of Everest

The pinnacle of Sikdar’s career came in 1852 when he made a groundbreaking calculation that would forever change the world’s perception of geography. Working under the guidance of Andrew Scott Waugh, the then Surveyor General of India, Sikdar was tasked with calculating the height of a peak in the Himalayas, known at the time as Peak XV. Using complex trigonometric calculations and precise measurements, Sikdar determined that Peak XV was, in fact, the tallest mountain in the world.

His calculation revealed that the height of Everest was an astonishing 29,002 feet above sea level, a figure remarkably close to the current official height of 29,029 feet. In recognition of his monumental achievement, the peak was later named Mount Everest, in honor of Sir George Everest, though it was Sikdar’s meticulous work that unveiled its true stature.

height of Everest

The Legacy of Radhanath Sikdar

Despite his monumental contributions, Radhanath Sikdar’s name remained largely vague, overshadowed by the colonial narrative that often neglected the contributions of Indian scientists and scholars. However, his legacy endures, not only in the records of scientific history but also in the hearts of those who appreciate the profound impact of his work.

Sikdar’s story is an evidence to the power of intellect and perseverance, a reminder that greatness often lies in the pursuit of knowledge and the dedication to one’s craft. His work laid the foundation for modern geodesy and cartography, inspiring generations of scientists and mathematicians to push the boundaries of human understanding.

Honoring a Forgotten Hero

Today, as we stand in awe of the majestic Mount Everest, it is crucial to remember and honor the man who first revealed its true height to the world. Radhanath Sikdar’s contributions to science and mathematics deserve recognition and celebration. His story serves as a beacon of inspiration, reminding us that even in the face of adversity and obscurity, true genius and dedication can scale the highest peaks.

In commemorating Radhanath Sikdar, we not only acknowledge his invaluable contributions but also celebrate the rich legacy of Indian science and the enduring spirit of discovery that continues to drive humanity forward.

What heights could Radhanath Sikdar have reached if history had given him the recognition he deserved?

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