Ashish Lahiri of Kolkata has written a book in Bengali entitled Dwi-Shatabarshe Radhanath Sikdar, to commemorate the bi-centenary of the birth of Radhanath Sikdar. The book has just been released.

A major visual attraction in Lahiri’s new book is his collection of vintage photographs. One of them is of the ‘survey towers’ on Barrackpore Road, Kolkata, where Everest introduced the new Colby Bar System in 1831 and Radhanath began his apprenticeship. There is also a photograph of the house in Chandan Nagar which Lahiri has been able to identify as the one which Radhanath built and where he spent his last years. 

Lahiri puts the spotlight on three great personalities who were responsible for shaping Radhanath’s life and career. Henry Derozio was his literary, philosophical and moral instructor. Dr. John Tytler, the polymath, introduced him to modern mathematics and physics. And of course, there was George Everest, under whose tutelage Radhanath became one of the earliest experts in geodesy.

Lahiri’s research brings out the uneasy relationship that existed between Sikdar and the East India Company’s colonial administration and how some of his scientific contributions did not find a place in government records. Lahiri has dealt with the controversy regarding Sikdar’s role in fixing the height of Peak XV, later named Mount Everest. The book also gives an account of Sikdar’s work as a great Indian meteorologist. The facsimile of Sikdar’s famous ‘Table K’ has been reproduced.

The very timely publication of Lahiri’s book sets the tone for a fitting commemoration of the bi-centenary of Radhanath Sikdar’s birth.

– R R Kelkar

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