The first years of George Everest
The last issue detailed the celebrations that took place for the anniversary of the birth of Sir George Everest but what do we know of the man? His is a household name because of its link to the mountain but many who are not surveyors either (a) think it is a made-up name for the mountain or (b) are not aware that the mountain was named after a person. I have come across many including such as geography teachers who thought it was a made-up name but we will come to the controversy over the name for the mountain in a later issue.
George Everest was born on 4 July 1790 but the actual location is uncertain. We know that his family had two homes at the time, one at Greenwich where George’s father was a solicitor, and the other near Crickhowell, South Wales where his father was a Justice of the Peace Deputy Lieutenant of the County of Brecon. Such positions would have meant that the family had to spend large parts of the year in Brecon and it could have been there that George was born. It is known that he was baptised in Greenwich on 27 January 1791, when he was some six months old. Various investigations have failed to fi nd proof of where the birth took place.
George had four brothers and one sister but of these one died young three did not marry and only his brother Thomas Roupall married. It was Thomas whose daughter Mary was to marry George Boole, the inventor of Boolean algebra which is the basis of the logic of a modern computer. . As George Everest was to become a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) so were George Boole and two of his sons Charles Hinton and Geoffrey Taylor so together it was a very illustrious scientifi family.
Going backwards the Everest family can be traced in the Greenwich area East of London to at least the late 1600s . This was at about the same time that the imposing Observatory was being built on the hill overlooking the River Thames and Greenwich and the first observations were made there on 16 September 1676 under the direction of John Flamsteed, the first Astronomer Royal. In the 1600s the family were butchers but in 1736 John Everest, one of the direct ancestors of George Everest, started practising law – a profession later followed by one of his sons William Tristram. William did not marry until he was 39 and was to become the father or George.
As far as is known, George had quite an ordinary education for the time and the Greenwich area then was a busy naval area because of its Thames side location and nearness to the North Sea. It would also have been quite a rough area for children to be brought up in which no doubt is what led George to get into lots of mischief and become difficult to control. As a result at the age of 14 he was sent to the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich to be a gentleman cadet in the Royal Artillery. His father, because of his profession, would have had all the right contacts to get his son to the Academy since it required high ranking nomination to get acceptance
The Academy had close links with the Honorable East India Company with which many of the cadets found employment on completing the course. George was to follow this route and by early 1806 and within a week of his16th birthday was landing in India. He did not return to England until 1826 by which time both his parents had died as had his elder brother. 1. MacHale D. George Boole. His life and work. 1985. Boole Press. Dublin. 2. Smith J R Everest. The Man and the Mountain. 1999. Whittles Publishing Scotland.