Thursday, 5th February 2015 | 7:00 pm
Join us at T2F for a talk by British historian, John Keay as he takes us on a journey through the nineteenth century’s most ambitious scientific endeavor.
The Great Indian Arc of the Meridian, begun in 1800, was the longest measurement of the earth’s surface ever to have been attempted. Its 1,600 miles of inch-perfect survey took nearly fifty years, cost more lives than most contemporary wars, and involved equations more complex than any in the pre-computer age. 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 ton.
William 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 significantly advanced our scientific understanding of the planet.
About the Speaker
Born in 1941 in Devon, England, John Keay was educated at Ampleforth College, York and Magdalen College, Oxford, where he was a scholar in Modern History. His tutors included the historian A J P Taylor and the playwright Alan Bennet. He first visited India in 1965 and has been returning there about every two years ever since. After a brief spell as a political correspondent, he assisted in the revision of the last edition of John Murray’s Handbook to India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka (1975) and wrote Into India, his first book. A string of acclaimed works followed – and continues. The paperback of his The Honourable Company has been reprinted a dozen times and India: A History went into a new and expanded edition in 2010. The ‘exquisitely written’ (Observer) China: A History has also become a classic. Midnight’s Descendants promises more of the same.
In 2009 the Royal Society for Asian Affairs awarded John Keay its Sir Percy Sykes Memorial Medal for his literary contribution to Asian studies, and in 2009 the Royal Literary Fund appointed him to a Literary Fellowship at the University of Dundee and then (2013) at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. He has lectured for the British Council all over India and has frequently accompanied tour groups in South and Southeast Asia.
This event is brought to you in partnership with the British Council.
Seats are limited and will be available on a ‘first come, first served’ basis. No reservations.