I am glad I did. Master storyteller John Keay deftly sifts truth from myth-making to uncover fascinating new evidence, revealing an amazing tale worthy of Kipling or Flashman of a life lived further out on the edge than most could even imagine'. Had it not been for the excessive mention of complexity of mathematics that the author seems to have taken a fancy to, apparently without fully comprehending the complexity, lack of enough historical backdrop and, most importantly, a lopsided portrayal of George Everest, this would have been an even more interesting book. As it was not till several months later that he was baptised at St Alphage church, Greenwich — on 27th January 1791 — t At the edge of the Welsh town of Crickhowell in the Black Mountains of Wales lies the Georgian manor house of Gwernvale, now a hotel. Please go ahead and read it. I would have liked to have known more about characters like Joseph Olliver, William Rossenrode and Radhanath Sickdhar, but Everest in particular strides like a colossus across these pages.
Before you start thinking about mile-long bridges or sky-high buildings, hey. William Lambton, an impossible martinet, completed it. Local discontents with the survey contributed to the tensions preceding the 1857 Revolt. And even if he was just the 'computer' for the survey who calculated the height of Mt. Full marks to the author for that. His frequent criticism of George Everest is not substantiated effectively in the book and seems borne out of some visceral dislike for the great surveyor.
Other parties were directly interested in measuring the heights of Himalayan peaks, but to determine heights accurately one needed an inch-perfect or at least foot-perfect measurement of heights all the way from sea-level, and this was only possible through the meticulous and scientific methods of the survey. Nothing as ambitious had been attempted before, for a survey of this magnitude in effect measured the very curvature of the earth. I hope that I have made a little effort in bringing some light to this mammoth event that took place 200 years ago. It was interesting for me to read about the Great Indian Arc of Meridian and compare it in my mind to the Struve-Tenner Geodetic Arc the Great Russian Arc measured at the same time in Eastern Europe. John Keay born 1941 is an English journalist and author specialising in writing popular histories about India and the Far East, often with a particular focus on their colonisation and exploration by Europeans. However, surprisingly, people do not remember Lambton at all and Everest was only remembered because Mount Everest was named after him. Their focus was very much on geodesy — Everest even wanted to extend all the way into Russia the meridian that already extended to the southern tip of India.
Keay and his wife re discovered this grave, in a nice bit of historical detective work. Reading the book brought back many vague memories from my childhood. Everest is named after him, but not because he measured its height but because of the services he rendered by looking after the Great Arc for 30 years. His combination of meticulous research, irreverent wit, powerful narrative and lively prose have invariably been complimented by both reviewers and readers. I think what ties them back to the rest of us is that their findings can sometimes shed light on who we are, and how we came to be that way.
His India Discovered and History of China were keenly informative, the later even carrying a heightened colour and relatively racy narration. The Arc closely followed the meridian 78° east of Greenwich, spreading its triangulated tentacles east and west in its effort to accurately map the whole of British India, from Cape Comorin in the south to the Himalayan foothills in the north and beyond. A survey of this magnitude was essential to map territories, delineate regions and divisions, build the web of infrastructure links so essential to effecting control over such a large region and above all to assert territorial superiority. Please go ahead and read it. What I desired was a better understanding of how these measurements were done that enabled the teams to actually do the mapping. Everest is named after him, but not because he measured its height but because of the services he rendered by looking after the Great Arc for 30 years. তখন পর্যন্ত বৈজ্ঞানিকরা জানতেন পৃথিবীর সবচেয়ে উঁচু পর্বতমালা দক্ষিণ আমেরিকার আন্দেজ, আর সর্বোচ্চ শিখর ছিল চিম্বোরাজো। ঈভরেস্টের নিজের তেমন কোন আগ্রহ ছিল না এই বিষয়ে, রেকর্ড-ফেকর্ড সৃষ্টি তার কাছে পোলাপান-মার্কা বাতুলতা ছিল কেবল। নেপালে তখন ব্রিটিশ রাজত্বের প্রবেশাধিকার নেই - তাই মাপজোঁক করতে হয় পাদদেশের অঞ্চল গাড়োয়াল আর কুমায়ুন থেকে। তবুও ধীরে ধীরে বোঝা গেল কি লুকিয়ে আছে উত্তরে - সাগরপৃষ্ঠ থেকে কম করে হলেও পাঁচ মাইল উঁচু তো হবেই নন্দদেবী আর কাঞ্চনজঙ্ঘা, ধবলগিরি আর অন্নপূর্ণা! And even it be so, why harp on that to the almost total exclusion of everything that may have been good in him.
I have relished reading his works. This comes to show the respect these two commanded for their feats. The Great Arc: The Dramatic Tale Of How India Was Mapped And Everest Was Named 2001 About book: The Great Arc is an account of the Trigonometric Survey of India, a mammoth exercise to survey and map the Indian sub-continent from Kanyakumari then Cape Comorin to Kashmir and from the Indus delta to Burma, an exercise that commenced in 1802 and was completed only in 1870. This difference is known as the spherical excess, and it has to be deducted from the angles measured before any conclusion can be drawn from them. The graphic story of the measurement of a meridian, or longitudinal, arc extending from the tip of the Indian subcontinent to the mountains of the Himalayas.
William Lambton, an impossible martinet, completed it. The book is about a series of measurements made by two Englishmen, William Lambton and George Everest, of the entire Indian subcontinent spanning a period of fifty years. Also, there were a surprising number of things that have not changed over the decades. I've recently been fascinated by the logistics and immense difficulty involved with surveying huge areas like India, and Keay doesn't skimp on the minutiae of how surveying was done in the 19th century. Some of the advice Lambton got from his doctor, and the blood-letting that was part of his treatment as was common practice at the time seem completely antiquated to us today. The book is engrossing like all John Keay books and is actually full of humour.
Overall, the book is now all the more poignant and important because the works of people such as Lambton and Everest along with their life's work which was the Great Arc are largely forgotten, both in India and England, which is a crying shame. Overall the book was extremely enjoyable, mainly thanks to Keay's brilliant writing, particularly his pleasure in depicting eccentricity. It is an amazing account, and I saw many reflections of some of my own experiences. Reading the book brought back many vague memories from my childhood. It starts off strong - describing the men, instruments of the great trigonometric survey and the perils facing them. Slags off a bit in the second half , good book nonetheless.
The Great Arc made possible the mapping of the entire Indian sub-continent and teh development of its roads, railways and telegraphs. But we love heroes to fall, and this book apparently aims to satisfy that desire. Mapping and surveying entire India from South tip to Himalaya. A different world of expectations and turn-around. In history, regimes can't be classified in binary. The author of the book goes so far to say that the amount of computations performed by the surveyors back then would take several days to complete in a supercomputer today. The Indian Mutiny of 1857 triggered a massive construction of roads, railways, telegraph lines and canals throughout India: all depended heavily on the accuracy of the maps which the Great Arc had made possible.
The story of how India was mapped, through a series of triangles, by using the basic fundamentals of trigonometry, under the leadership of William Lambton and his successor after whom the tallest peak in the world was named - George Everest. They made what are called triangulations across the entire subcontinent in times when there were no lights, no telegraph, no telephone, etc. This book makes you realize the immense scope and the audacity of those who carried it out. John Keay is an engaging writer of uncomplicated books. Fascinating view into how cartography and surveying started and has evolved over last 2 centuries. Without complicating it with technical details, the author explains the basics of geographical survey and measurement, with its complexities and problems, in a simple enough manner. Someone who devoted decades of his life following a grand pursuit deserves a more sympathetic treatment.