16 June 2011

New Europa stamps from Macedonia…

Date of Issue : 5 May 2011

Macedonain Post issued a set of two stamps and a Miniature sheet on 5 May 2011 on Europa 2011 theme, ‘ Year of Forests’. These stamps do not show the new Europa logo. Three different views of forest could be seen on stamps, Green Forest (MS), Forest in snow and forest in autumn ( Stramps) . The set is very beautiful featuring 3 vivid colors of Forests.

eu 2 eu 3


Who found Peak XV the highest peak of the world ?

… All Indians should know

- Rajesh Kumar Bagri


Radhanath Sikdar (1813–1870) was an Indian mathematician who, among many other things, calculated the height of Peak XV in the Himalaya and showed it to be the tallest mountain above sea level by his mathematic excellence. The peak also called Sagarmatha (Nepali), Chomolungma or Qomolangma or Zhumulangma (Chinese: Zhūmùlǎngmǎ Fēng) – is the highest mountain on Earth, as measured by the height above sea level of its summit, 8,848 metres.


Early Life

Son of Tituram, Radhanath Sikdar was educated at "Phiringi" Kamal Bose's School and Hindu College (now called Presidency College) in Calcutta, India. He worked for the Surveyor General of India, a division of the British Raj in India. He joined the Great Trigonometric Survey in 1831.

When in 1831 George Everest was searching for a brilliant young mathematician with particular proficiency in spherical trigonometry, the Hindu College maths teacher Dr. John Tytler superlatively recommended his pupil Radhanath, then only 19. Radhanath joined the Great Trigonometric Survey in 1831 December as a "computor" at a salary of Rupees Thirty per month. Soon he was sent to Sironj near Dehra Dun where he excelled in geodetic surveying. Apart from mastering the usual geodetic processes, he invented quite a few of his own. Everest was extremely impressed by his performance, so much so that when Sikdar wanted to leave GTS and be a Deputy Collector, Everest intervened, proclaiming that no government officer can change over to another department without the approval of his boss. Everest retired in 1843 and Col. Andrew Waugh became the Director.

Andrew Waugh had held Radhanath in high esteem, and Everest had this to say about him, “There are few in India, whether European or native, that can at all compete with him. Even in Europe these mathematical attainments would rank very high.”

Radhanath proved to be an invaluable asset to the Survey of India and in 1851, he was promoted to the post of Chief Computor, and transferred to Calcutta. It was with this background that the Friend of India had said in its issue of 11 November 1852 about Radhanath Sikdar: “This native gentleman, lately Head Computor in the same establishment, has long been the first among few natives, whose scientific acquirements emulate those of Europeans…and we have little doubt that he will ably fulfill his duties as the head of the office of which he has long been the soul.”

At the order of Col. Waugh he started measuring the snow capped mountains near Darjeeling. Compiling data about Peak XV from six different observations, he eventually came to the conclusion the Peak XV was the tallest in the world. He gave a full report to Waugh who was cautious enough not to announce this discovery before checking with other data. When after some years, he was convinced, only then did he publicly announce the same. The norm, strictly followed by Everest himself, was that while naming a peak, the local name should be preferred. But in this case, Waugh made an exception. He paid a tribute to his ex-boss by proposing that the peak be named after Everest. Naturally, Everest agreed, and Sikdar was conveniently forgotten.

It appears that while Everest and Waugh both extolled him for his exceptional mathematical abilities, his relations with the colonial administration were far from cordial. Two specific instances are on record.

In 1851 a voluminous Survey Manual (Eds. Capt. H. L. Thuillier and Capt. F. Smyth) was published by the Survey Department. The preface to the Manual clearly and specifically mentioned that the more technical and mathematical chapters of the Manual were written by Babu Radhanath Sikdar. The Manual proved to be immensely useful to surveyors. However, the third edition, published in 1875 (i.e., after Sikdar's death) did not contain that preface, so that Sikdar's memorable contribution was de-recognized. The incident was condemned by a section of British surveyors. The paper Friend of India in 1876 called it 'robbery of the dead'.

It is also on record that Sikdar was fined a sum of 200 rupees by the British court in 1843 for having vehemently protested against the unlawful exploitation of survey department workers by the Magistrate Vansittart. The incident was reported in detail in The Bengal Spectator edited by another great Derozian Ramgopal Ghosh.

He died on 17 May 1870 at Gondalpara, Chandannagar in his villa by the side of the Ganga.

International Recognition

Nevertheless, in recognition of Sikdar's mathematical genius and findings about Peak XV, the German Philosophical Society's Bavaria branch of Natural Science made him a Corresponding Member in 1864, a very rare honour those days. Sikdar had retired from service in 1862.

The Department of Posts, Government of India, launched a postal stamp on June 27, 2004, commemorating the establishment of the Great Trigonometric Survey in Chennai, India on April 10, 1802. The stamps feature Radhanath Sikdar and Nain Singh, two significant contributors to society. The Great Arc refers to the systematic exploration and recording of the entire topography of the Indian subcontinent which was spear-headed by the Great Trigonometric Survey.

Some Indians, including the former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, are of the opinion that Mount Everest should be renamed after Sikdar….

About the author : Mr Rajesh Kumar Bagri is a renowned thematic philatelist of India. He was the Commissioner Gerneral of recent World Philatelic exhibition held in New Delhi, Indipex – 2011. He has won many national and international awards for his exhibit on “Maps”. Mr Bagri may be contacted at email : bagri@iname.com

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