WTF Fun Fact 13502 – The Naming of Mount Everest

The naming of Mount Everest was controversial. While it already had local names, the mountain was renamed by British colonialists in 1865 after a man who had never even been there.

Sir George Everest and the Naming of Mount Everest

Sir George Everest, whose name graces the world’s tallest mountain, holds an ironic place in its history. Despite his significant contributions to cartography and the British Great Trigonometrical Survey in India, he never set foot on the mountain itself. Everest’s connection to the peak comes solely through his work, rather than any firsthand experience.

Everest never visited the mountain. He spent much of his time overseeing operations, conducting research, and ensuring the accuracy of the work. He retired and returned to England in 1855, before the peak’s official identification and naming.

Initial Discoveries

British maps first labeled the mountain as “Peak XV.” In the 19th century, the British began a massive project. Their goal? Measure the entire Indian subcontinent. The British Great Trigonometrical Survey faced many challenges, from dense forests to rugged landscapes. By the 1850s, they focused on the Himalayas.

Radhanath Sikdar made a discovery in 1852. He was an Indian mathematician and surveyor. Sikdar believed Peak XV was the world’s highest peak. This idea challenged the earlier belief in Kangchenjunga as the highest. This claim took years to confirm.

Everest served as the British Surveyor General of India from 1830 to 1843. During his tenure, he spearheaded various initiatives to measure and map the subcontinent. These efforts laid the groundwork for later expeditions into the Himalayas. His meticulous methodologies ensured that the measurements and results of the surveys were precise.

The Controversial Naming of Mount Everest

In 1856, a new proposal emerged. Andrew Waugh, the current Survey’s General, had an idea. He wanted to name the peak after Sir George Everest. But this idea sparked debate. The mountain already had local names. Tibetans called it “Chomolungma,” and the Nepalese named it “Sagarmatha.”

Waugh had a reason for his proposal. Many local names existed across various regions. Picking one name for everyone seemed tough. He thought naming the peak after Sir George Everest made sense. The Royal Geographical Society made it official in 1865. They named it “Mount Everest.”

The world now knew Mount Everest. Climbers wanted to reach its top. Every expedition brought more attention to the mountain. Yet, Nepal and Tibet kept their local names. It took time for “Sagarmatha” and “Chomolungma” to gain global recognition.

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Source: “Mount Everest” — National Geographic Society


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