The Great Arc: The Dramatic Tale of How India Was Mapped and Everest Was Named Audible – Vansonphu.com


The Great Arc: The Dramatic Tale of How India Was Mapped and Everest Was Named The Great Arc is a wonderful little chronicle of the Great Trigonometrical Survey carried out in India roughly between 1800 1860 CE Various teams surveyed India right from its southern tip, to the Himalayas.What brings the book alive is John Keay s writing Packed with meticulously researched details both in India and in England, Keay enriches it further with some things gained from his own recent traversing of the Great Arc.The book is packed with memorable characters such as William Lambton The Great Arc is a wonderful little chronicle of the Great Trigonometrical Survey carried out in India roughly between 1800 1860 CE Various teams surveyed India right from its southern tip, to the Himalayas.What brings the book alive is John Keay s writing Packed with meticulously researched details both in India and in England, Keay enriches it further with some things gained from his own recent traversing of the Great Arc.The book is packed with memorable characters such as William Lambton, the meticulous and slightly eccentric father of the survey who also intended the Arc as a giant experiment to measure the geodesy of the globe the curve , apart from mundane activities such as mapping India Keay also recounts how he re discovered Lambton s forgotten grave in the heart of India George Everest then takes over the narrative, and succeeds in connecting the Arc from Central India to the Himalayan foothills despite severe illnesses, marauding tigers and unreliable equipment The final few chapters deal with the troublesome mapping of the Himalayas and the search for the highest mountain in the world, which was named in honour of the now retired Surveyor General of India, Everest which Keay says should actually be pronounced as EVE rest, rhyming with CLEAVE rest Apparently, Everest himself was unhappy with the mispronounciations which dogged his life.Overall, the book is now all thepoignant 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 During their time, they were richly feted as some of most pre eminent men of science, and the Arc was hailed as the most scientifically exact and reliable operation undertaken anywhere in the world.Overall the book was extremely enjoyable, mainly thanks to Keay s brilliant writing, particularly his pleasure in depicting eccentricity 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.The book traces the history of the Trigonometric Survey from its conceptualisation and commencement in 1802 by its first superintendent William Lambton until the mid 1830 s under his successor George Everest In this time t 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.The book traces the history of the Trigonometric Survey from its conceptualisation and commencement in 1802 by its first superintendent William Lambton until the mid 1830 s under his successor George Everest In this time the primary arc tracing the 78 E longitude that passes through Delhi was surveyed in a series of interconnected triangles that stretched from Kanya Kumari in the south to Dehradun in the north.The primary arc was to be the spine of the web of triangles that measured and surveyed the length and breadth of the country secondary arcs branching off perpendicularly from the primary arc and these secondary arcs further lending to further arcs that then ran parallel to the primary arc, crisscrossing the length and breadth of the country.Nothing as ambitious had been attempted before, for a survey of this magnitude in effect measured the very curvature of the earth Mapping and measuring the heights of some of the highest peaks of the Himalayas Nanda Devi, Kanchenjunga, Nanga Parbat, Mount Everest and others were a direct consequence of this survey.In addition to the cartographical, geographical and wider scientific implications of the survey, the exercise had a significant political impact too For this was a way for the East India Company that by now had clear territorial ambitions to exert its influence over the land it wished to govern 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 Needless to add, it was a necessary aid to revenue collection, one of the primary reasons why India was attractive to the colonial ambitions of the British.Large swathes of forest were cleared, hills flattened, monuments temples and mosques vandalized, villages razed, buildings and mansions in towns cut through all in the name of obtaining clear lines of sight to measure the trigonometrical angles Suffice to say the local populace and their princes were not amused Nor did the arrogant and high handed approach of the superintendents of the Survey, George Everest included, help Local resources were diverted, men and beasts put in the employ of the Survey and the harsh conditions of the dense jungles and working in the heat and rain claimed fatalities larger in number than wars It would not be an exaggeration to say that this was one of the reasons contributing to the First War of Independence in 1857.The subject matter of the book makes for interesting reading 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 There would have been difficulties in researching a topic two centuries old, inspite of the copious amount of correspondence and publications that the mammoth effort must have generated The book restricts itself to the first thirty or so years of the survey that took nearly seventy and traces the events during the course of its first two superintendents William Lambton, an unassuming but much loved person with a zeal for perfection and his successor George Everest, a man with an equal zeal for perfection but loathed by his sub ordinates for his abrasive and abusive ways There is some reference to the administrative, logistical and practical difficulties that these men had to face, but the book is neither a humanistic account that presents the dynamics of the what how why nor a research treatise that delves into the technical details It is an attempt at turning a mega event into a novel but ends up without strong characterisation with the exception of Lambton who is presented as a lovable old man and Everest as a loathable person There is little detail on the social, political and cultural impact the survey had on the India of then Even events that would have then been and would now be too sacrilegious, such as drilling a hole in the dome of a mosque, removing a pillar holding the cupola atop Akbar s tomb at Fatehpur Sikhri, mounting equipment tons heavy on the spires of temples are glossed over Needless to add, such acts would have generated tremendous animosity and ill will among the local population, with implications for the survey and the fledgling administration of the East India Company An examination of these aspects would have made the book a farabsorbing read, for by the last third of the book, it gets repetitive Everest s outbursts, the same challenges and problems in finding suitable spots for observation points etc.,Nevertheless, the book is an interesting read on a subject matter that literally defined the world we live in Full marks to the author for that A good book that loses steam in its second half It starts off strong describing the men, instruments of the great trigonometric survey and the perils facing them Then it just settles into a rhythm of Everest bashing, malaria, scouting for high ground, Everest bashing, malariaNotably the book has exactly three lines on Radhanath Sikdar The author believes that Sikdar s contribution to the survey has been overstated but how about introducing him first and then presenting some arguments abo A good book that loses steam in its second half It starts off strong describing the men, instruments of the great trigonometric survey and the perils facing them Then it just settles into a rhythm of Everest bashing, malaria, scouting for high ground, Everest bashing, malariaNotably the book has exactly three lines on Radhanath Sikdar The author believes that Sikdar s contribution to the survey has been overstated but how about introducing him first and then presenting some arguments about why he doesn t think he was relevant And even if he was just the computer for the survey who calculated the height of Mt Everest doesn t he deserve a bit of background Just fabulous as far as a book on triangulation can be 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 The people who were involved in the triangulation were quite something, and obviously if you d pair geodesy with tigers, malaria, and the highest mountains in the world, you re bound to get something interesting. A great short read about one of the most challenging cartographic projects ever attempted by the British Empire I learned a great deal about triangulation and dedication though Mount Everest really should be named after William Lambton whose dedication to the Great Arc was surpassed only by its achievement The only downside to this book is that it is written from the Imperialistic perspective, possibly due to the source documents Although it was British policy retain local names for geographi A great short read about one of the most challenging cartographic projects ever attempted by the British Empire I learned a great deal about triangulation and dedication though Mount Everest really should be named after William Lambton whose dedication to the Great Arc was surpassed only by its achievement The only downside to this book is that it is written from the Imperialistic perspective, possibly due to the source documents Although it was British policy retain local names for geographic features whenever possible, there is an equal amount of griping about local chiefs who protest surveyors overlooking their property and or their women Everest is also openly racist, advancing assistants he hires after Lambton dies over Lambton s well trained mixed race assistants who had been working for Lambton longer than Everest had If you can tolerate Everest s personality, the story is fascinating, but it would have been good to include abalanced perspective regarding the individual Indian kingdoms So magnificent Like the Himalayas I m sorry to say goodbye to this one It s a real gem. The Great Indian Arc of the Meridian, begun in , was the longest maesurement of the earth s surface ever to have been attempted Its , miles of inch perfect survey took nearly fifty years Hailed as one of the most stupendous works in the history of science, it was also one of the most perilous Snowy mountains and tropical jungles, floods and fevers, tigers and scorpions all took their toll on the band of surveyors as they crossed the Indian subcontinent carrying instruments weighing half a tonWillian Lambton, an endearing genius, had conceived the idea George Everest, an impossible martinet, completed it This saga of astounding adventure and gigantic personalities not only resulted in the first accurate measurement of the highest peak in the world but defined India as we know it and significant advanced our scientific understanding of the planet 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 Somehow, my respect for topo sheets just went up a few notches after reading this book Whereas the British can be blamed for the partition of India, it can be argued that they created the concept of India by uniting the melange of warring principalities, despots and tyrants across the length and breadth of the peninsula They may have built railway lines, irrigation canals, roads and created administrative services for the benefit of Indians, but it was primarily for their selfish interests for effective governing of the boisterous natives that the infrastructure was set up To Whereas the British can be blamed for the partition of India, it can be argued that they created the concept of India by uniting the melange of warring principalities, despots and tyrants across the length and breadth of the peninsula They may have built railway lines, irrigation canals, roads and created administrative services for the benefit of Indians, but it was primarily for their selfish interests for effective governing of the boisterous natives that the infrastructure was set up To enable all this, accurate mapping of the conquered territories was mandatory The Great Trigonometrical Survey was the basis of all subsequent mapping Such an all embracing map, or atlas, was now considered high desirable To the British, somewhat in the manner of a tomcat scent marking its territory, the map would define the area in which they had a personal interest They called this area India , a term then alien to the peoples of south Asia and imprecise even in the European usage, and they conceived this India as a distinct Asian entity and hence, by the criteria of colonial expansion, as a legitimate subject of dominion The map would substantiate this idea by demonstrating their knowledge of the spatial relationships between its component cities, strongholds and geographical features, a knowledgeintimate and accurate than had ever been displayed by the country s inhabitants The emphasis in the above text is mine The reasons for the First War of Independence or the Mutiny of 1857 were many, but one of precipitating factors may have been the Great Trigonometrical Survey But surveyors had undoubtedly fuelled both the British sense of superiority and the Indian sense of grievance Bars and chains of invisible triangulation looked and sounded a lot like political strangulation Not unwittingly the Survey had furnished the paradigm and encouraged the mind set of an autocratic and unresponsive imperialism Additionally, by razing whole villages, appropriating sacred hills, exhausting local supplies, antagonizing protective husbands and facilitating the assessment of the dreaded land revenue, the surveyors had probably done as much to advertise the realities of British rule and so alienate grassroots opinion as had any branch of the administration But to Everest and his generation devotional customs and immemorial lore were just evidence of the suspicious native mind The book isof an account of the main initial surveyors viz., the pioneering polymath Lambton and the cantankerous Everest pronounced EVE rest Ironical that Everest never saw the massif named after him Mussoorie, in the Himalayan foothills was the closest he came to the highest mountain in the world and from this podium in the Himalayas he would conduct the Great Arc to its climax in what he reckoned to be as perfect a performance as mankind has yet seen This book was very disappointing From my reading of Into The Silence Wade Davis , I knew the basic story of the Great Trigonometrical Survey of India begun around 1800 by William Lambton and completed by his successor George Everest, after whom the tallest mountain in the world is named What I desired was a better understanding of how these measurements were done that enabled the teams to actually do the mapping I knowthan enough trigonometry to understand the calculations involved in This book was very disappointing From my reading of Into The Silence Wade Davis , I knew the basic story of the Great Trigonometrical Survey of India begun around 1800 by William Lambton and completed by his successor George Everest, after whom the tallest mountain in the world is named What I desired was a better understanding of how these measurements were done that enabled the teams to actually do the mapping I knowthan enough trigonometry to understand the calculations involved in the mapping given the three angles of a right triangle and the length of one side, the lengths of the other two sides can be calculated But the one side that was used in these calculations was the foot or base of the triangle, and it was never explained how that could be measured over an inclined or irregular surface Without that understanding, much of what followed made little sense.Another example from the text a far greater complication arose from the fact that the earth, as well as being uneven, is round This means that the angles of any triangle on its horizontal but rounded surface do not, as on a level plane, add up to 180 degrees Instead they are slightly opened by the curvature and so come to something slightlythan 180 degrees 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 Great, I understand thatbut not how it was done What is in this book though is a real look at the difficulties encountered in this survey, including simple things like the expansion of tools used for measurement in hot weather Malaria and other tropical fevers were of constant concern, and in some survey seasons workers counted into the three digits died Portions of towns that obstructed the view of the surveyors were destroyed, including homes with families still living in them Swaths of trees were felled Temples were altered as needed The British didn t care This book also delves into the personalities of both Lambton and Everest spoiler alert Everest was a real shit.All in all, if you are looking for a book on the Great Trigonometrical Survey of India, I would suggest that you look for another one to read


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