Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Everest, George

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

EVEREST, Sir GEORGE (1790–1866), military engineer, eldest son of Tristram Everest, was born at Gwernvale, Brecknockshire, 4 July 1790, and educated at the military schools at Great Marlow and Woolwich. He entered the service of the East India Company as a cadet in 1806, and sailed for India in the same year as second lieutenant in the Bengal artillery. After seven years' service he was sent to join a detachment in Java, where he was selected by Sir Stamford Raffles, then governor, to make a survey of the island, in which laborious task he spent two years, and afterwards returned to Bengal. He was next employed in engineering works, improving the navigation of the outlets of the Ganges, and though appointed chief assistant on the great trigonometrical survey of India in 1817, he remained for some months in Hindostan to complete the establishment of a line of telegraphic posts from Calcutta to Benares. In 1818 he joined Lieutenant-colonel William Lambton, superintendent of the survey, at Hyderabad, and entered with great spirit on the duties by which his name has become noteworthy in the annals of geodesy. In carrying the work through an unhealthy part of the Nizam territory in 1820 his health failed, and he was ordered to the Cape of Good Hope to recruit. On the death of Colonel Lambton, 20 Jan. 1823, Everest was appointed superintendent of the survey, and taking up the work where his predecessor had left it, in the valley of Berar, he extended it into the mountainous tract on the north. In November 1824 he measured a base-line in the Seronj valley, and in 1825 had carried the observations on to Bhaorasa, when his health gave way, and he came back to England. There he was elected F.R.S. 8 March 1827, and, having made himself acquainted with the modern practice of the English ordnance survey, returned to India in June 1830. His labours and responsibilities were now largely increased, for in addition to his post as chief of the trigonometrical survey, he had been appointed surveyor-general of India. He resumed operations on the great arc in 1832, from which date it was diligently carried on until its completion in December 1841, by the remeasurement of the Beder base-line by Captain Andrew Scott Waugh. With these concluding operations an arc of meridian more than twenty-one degrees in length had been measured by the two chiefs of the survey and their assistants, extending from Cape Comorin to the northern border of the British possessions in India.

On 16 Dec. 1843 he retired from the service, and resided henceforth in England. His military promotions were captain 1818, major 1832, lieutenant-colonel 1838. His leisure was now employed in bringing out his work in two quarto volumes, entitled ‘An Account of the Measurement of two Sections of the Meridional Arc of India, bounded by the parallels of 18° 3߱ 15″, 24° 7߱ 11″, and 29° 30߱ 48″.’ For this work, which appeared in 1847, and the long series of operations on which it was founded, the Royal Astronomical Society awarded him their testimonial. The Asiatic Society of Bengal also elected him an honorary member, and he became a fellow of the Astronomical and of the Royal Asiatic and Geographical Societies. He was named a C.B. 26 Feb. 1861, and knighted by the queen at St. James's Palace, 13 March 1861. He served on the council of the Royal Society 1863–5, and was a member of the council and a vice-president of the Geographical Society. His name has been given to one of the highest summits of the Himalayan range, Mount Everest, 29,002 feet high. He died at 10 Westbourne Street, Hyde Park Gardens, London, 1 Dec. 1866. He married, 17 Nov. 1846, Emma, eldest daughter of Thomas Wing, attorney-at-law, of Gray's Inn and of Hampstead.

Besides the work already mentioned he was the author of:

  1. ‘An Account of the Measurement of the Arc of the Meridian between the parallels of 18° 3′ and 24° 7′, being a continuation of the Grand Meridional Arc of India as detailed by Lieutenant-colonel Lambton in the volumes of the Asiatic Society of Calcutta,’ 1830.
  2. ‘A Series of Letters addressed to his Royal Highness the Duke of Sussex, as President of the Royal Society, remonstrating against the conduct of that learned body [in desiring the court of directors to repose their unlimited confidence in Major Jervis and his plans in regard to India],’ 1839.
  3. ‘On Instruments and Observations for Longitude for Travellers on Land,’ 1859; and also numerous papers in the transactions of societies.

[Monthly Notices of Astronomical Soc. xxvii. 105–8 (1867); Journal of Geographical Soc., vol. xxxvii. pp. cxv–cxviii (1867); Proceedings of Royal Soc., vol. xvi. pp. xi–xiv (1868); Annual Report of Royal Asiatic Soc., vol. iii. p. xvi (1867); Stubbs's History of Bengal Artillery, ii. 251–4 (1877); Cat. of Scientific Papers, ii. 531 (1868).]

G. C. B.