The Dramatic Tale of how India was Mapped and Everest was Named
The Great Indian Arc of the Meridian, begun in 1800, was the longest measurement of the earth's surface ever to have been attempted. Its 1600 miles of inch-perfect survey took nearly fifty years, cost more lives than most contemporary wars, and involved equations more complex than any in the pre-computer age.
This is a vivid description of one of the most ambitious scientific projects undertaken in the 19th century, and the men who undertook the measurement of the Himalayas and the mapping of the Indian subcontinent: William Lambton and George Everest.
The Great Arc made possible the mapping of the entire Indian subcontinent and the development of its roads, railways and telegraphs. India as we now know it was defined in the process. The Arc also resulted in the first accurate measurements of the Himalayas, an achievement which was acknowledged by the naming of the world's highest mountain in honour of Everest. More important still, by producing new values for the curvature of the earth's surface, the Arc significantly advanced our knowledge of the exact shape of our planet.