You are hereThe Welshman who gave his name to the world's highest mountain
The Welshman who gave his name to the world's highest mountain
2012 marks 160 years since scientists mapped and surveyed the mighty Himalayas. Sion Morgan looks back at the role of Welshman George Everest, whose name adorns the most famous peak of all
In 1852 a group of scientists completed a 50-year project which began at the foothills of the Himalayan mountains to map and survey Asia’s mammoth mountain range.
Among the pioneering researchers whose blood, sweat and tears were given to the cause was a man from Crickhowell called George Everest.
Sir George, as he would later be known, was said to be "an illustrious master of geographical research" who had been born in the manor of Gwernvale at Crickhowell in 1790.
He became a military engineer and geodesist and went to India in 1823 to take the Great Trigonometrical Survey of the sub-continent which William Lambton had begun in 1806.
The survey would take up 25 years of his life but would result in the mapping of almost 2,400km from Cape Comorin in the south to the Himalayas in the north.
It is said that Everest was relentless in his pursuit of accuracy and that he made countless adaptations to the surveying equipment, the methods and the calculations involved.
Broadcaster and writer Phil Carradice has described him as "always an innovator and during his time on the survey as Surveyor General of India he made many modifications and alterations to the equipment used".
He added: "For years the survey ground on with Everest and his colleagues tramping over miles and miles of desert and jungle.
"The terrain caused huge difficulties and the climate exacted a terrible toll on them.
"At one point Everest himself fell ill and the survey had to be suspended for a while but, with dogged determination, he was soon back on the job."
Seven years after he was appointed superintendent of the Great Trigonometrical Survey, Everest was also made Surveyor General in India.
It is known that Everest travelled to the foothills of the Himalayas as part of his work but there is no firm evidence that he actually saw the summit of the mountain which bears his name.
However, the triangulation theories developed by Everest were to be used in 1852 to locate the summit by the man who succeeded him as Surveyor General in India, Andrew Waugh.
Mr Carradice said: "One of the most interesting facts about George Everest is that, in all probability, he never once laid eyes on the mountain that was named after him.
"When he retired, Everest was succeeded as Surveyor General of India by Andrew Waugh.
"Exploration of the Himalayas was still in its infancy and within a few years the huge bulk of what was soon to become Mount Everest was discovered.
"Waugh and others believed that it had never been seen before and was certainly not named – not by the British, perhaps, but the Tibetan and Nepalese porters in the region all had their name for it."
At first, the world’s highest mountain was dubbed Peak XV but Waugh wanted a lasting tribute to his predecessor who had done so much groundbreaking work on the survey.
"Here is a mountain most probably the highest in the world without any local name that I can discover," wrote Waugh at the time.
He went on to suggest a name, writing that "to perpetuate the memory of that illustrious master of geographical research" the mountain should be called Everest.
Sir George was knighted in 1861. In 1865, Peak XV was officially named Mount Everest in his honour.
An article in the Guardian newspaper in 1856 read: "For over 150 years scientists have tried to establish the exact height of Mount Everest.
"To settle the matter once and for all, Nepal has ordered a new survey of the world’s highest mountain.
"The peak was named after British surveyor George Everest in 1856.
"The story goes that in 1852 Radhanath Sikhdar, a mathematician working for the Great Trigonometrical Survey of India, discovered what he thought was the highest summit in the world.
"Several years later this was confirmed and the British decided to name it after Colonel George Everest, head of the survey (although he was always rather embarrassed by the honour)."
In 1843, Sir George gave up his post as Surveyor General and came home to a well-earned retirement.
He became a Fellow of the Royal Society and in 1861, in recognition of his invaluable service, he received a knighthood.
It would be another century until Mount Everest was first climbed by Sir Edmund Hillary.
And in a coincidental link with the Welshman who found its peak, Snowdonia, with its barren, precipitous rock faces, was used by members of the first team to conquer the mountain in 1953.
Just south of the Pass of Llanberis, you will find the Pen y Gwryd Hotel in which relics of the 1953 team are kept.
It has since come to light that the mountain did have more than one local name. It's known in the Tibetan language as Chomolungma and in Nepal as Sagamartha.
But across the world, it is the name of the man from Powys which is associated with the world’s highest peak.
• By Sion Morgan, WalesOnline