The right way to lose an argument

In 1857, the Proceedings of the London Royal Geographical Society of London recorded a controversy between the then-sitting Surveyor General of India and his immediate predecessor about what to name Peak XV, the mountain the former had just successfully surveyed. The incumbent, a man named Andrew Waugh, argued that since there were so many local names for the mountain, he should be allowed to pick a single (and English) official name for it. The retired predecessor claimed (and the evidence seems to support him) that the mountain was almost universally called Chomolungma by the locals. Whether it was just the silliness of that name, Waugh’s personal power and prestige, or the appeal of imposing a European name, the decision was made to select a new name, but a bone was thrown to the loser in the debate, the former Surveyor, Colonel Sir George Everest.

Today, Waugh is forgotten and Everest is, well, Everest.

Bonus sneakiness: Waugh surveyed what is now called Mount Everest and calculated its peak was exactly 29,000 feet above sea level. He cannily tweaked his calculation and claimed it was 29,002 feet, so people would not think he was eye-balling it.

The latest measurement is 29,017 (and 2 inches) and it grows about an inch every six years as the Indian Subcontinent continues to thrust itself north into Asia.

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