Henry William Pickersgill, 1782-1875
Portrait of Major General Sir Andrew Scott Waugh 1810-1878
Major General Sir Andrew Scott Waugh
oil on canvas
30 x 25in. (76 x 64 cm.)


Major General Sir Andrew Scott Waugh (1810-1878) was a British army officer and surveyor now remembered as the man who named the highest mountain in the world after Sir George Everest, his predecessor in the post of Surveyor-General of India.Waugh, Sir Andrew Scott (1810–1878), army officer and surveyor, eldest son of General Gilbert Waugh, military auditor-general at Madras, grandson of Colonel Gilbert Waugh of Gracemount, Midlothian (descended from Waugh of Shaw, standard-bearer at Flodden Field), and nephew of Sir Murray Maxwell of the Royal Navy, was born in India on 3 February 1810. He was educated at Edinburgh high school, and, after passing through Addiscombe in 1827 in half the usual time, came out first of his term and was commissioned lieutenant in the Bengal Engineers on 13 December 1827. After training at Chatham he went to India, arriving there on 25 May 1829.

Waugh was appointed in 1830 to help build a new foundry at Kashipur. On 13 April 1831 he was appointed adjutant of the Bengal Sappers and Miners, and on 17 July 1832 to the great trigonometrical survey of India under the immediate direction of George Everest, the surveyor-general. Waugh and his friend Lieutenant Thomas Renny (afterwards Major Thomas Renny-Tailyour) were the first engineers on the Indian establishment to join the department as subalterns and to make their careers in it. In 1833 they were sent to Sironj, to carry a series of triangles up one of the meridians fixed by the longitudinal series. They explored the jungle country between Chunar and the sources of the Son and Narbada up to Jubbulpore, and submitted a topographical and geological report to the geographical department of the India Office.

In November 1834 Waugh joined the headquarters of the surveyor-general at Dehra Dun, to help measure the baseline. In April 1835 he was appointed astronomical assistant for the celestial observations connected with the measurement of the great arc, and at the end of that year he was at Fatehgarh, conducting the rougher series of the great trigonometrical survey. In January 1836 he joined Everest at Saini, to help measure the arc of the meridian extending from Cape Comorin to Dehra Dun, starting with the northern baseline in the Dehra Dun valley, and connecting it with the baseline near Sironj, some 450 miles to the south; and remeasuring the latter in 1837 with the new compensation bars which had been used at Dehra Dun. The operation was so accurate that the difference of length of the Dehra Dun baseline as measured and as deduced by triangulations from Sironj was only 7.2 inches.

In November 1837 Waugh was appointed to work southwards on the base Pagaro to Jaktipura. The work was completed by March 1838, when he was sent to test the accuracy of the triangulation between Bedar and Takalkhard and to lay out the site of an observatory at Damargidda. In October he began fieldwork with azimuth observations at Damargidda, and, working north with the triangulation, completed the work by April 1839. He shared with Everest the arduous observatory work carried on simultaneously at the stations of Kaliana, Kalianpur, and Damargidda from November 1839 to March 1840, by which the arc of amplitude was determined. In 1841 Waugh was engaged in the remeasurement of the Bedar base. Between 1834 and 1840 he had conducted the Ranghir series of triangles in the North-Western Provinces, and in 1842 he rapidly but accurately carried the triangulation through the malarious Rohilkhand terai.

At the end of 1843 Everest retired, recommending that Waugh, whose abilities in both the theoretical and practical aspects of survey work he had consistently praised, succeed him as surveyor-general. Although only a subaltern of Royal Engineers, and although he had only eleven years' experience of surveying, Waugh was accordingly appointed from 16 December 1843. In 1844 he married Josephine (d. 1866), daughter of Dr William Graham of Edinburgh, and was promoted captain on 14 February of that year. He began his tenure as surveyor-general by carrying out the remaining seven series projected by Everest. These covered some 28,000 square miles and originated from the Calcutta longitudinal series on the ‘gridiron system’. The eastern side was formed by the Calcutta meridional series (1844–8), which terminated in another baseline near the foot of the Darjeeling hills.

Waugh took a leading role in the north-east Himalaya series, connecting the northern end of the meridional series. The line of the country was along the base of the Himalaya terai, a malarial submontane tract in which many of his staff died. These operations fixed the positions and heights of seventy-nine of the highest Himalayan peaks in Nepal and Sikkim, including Peak XV, named Mont Everest in 1856 by Waugh. The series was then the longest ever carried between measured bases, being 1690 miles long from Sonakoda to Dehra Dun.

On 3 December 1847 Waugh was given the local rank of lieutenant-colonel. After completing the South Konkan, the Madras coast series, the South Parisnath, and South Maluncha series, he was free to undertake a system of triangulation to the west of the great arc series over the vast territory, much of it recently acquired, that lay in Sind, the North-Western Provinces, and the Punjab. The Chach base, near Attock, was measured in 1851–2, and the north-west Himalayan series, emanating from the Dehra Dun base, extended to it; and from Sironj the Calcutta great longitudinal series was carried westward to Karachi, closing on another baseline at Karachi, measured in 1854–5 under the surveyor-general's immediate supervision. Waugh was promoted major in the Bengal Engineers on 3 August 1855, and in 1856 the great Indus series was begun, forming the western side of the survey on its completion in 1860. In 1856 Waugh instituted a series of spirit-levelling operations to determine more accurately the heights of the baselines in the interior, beginning in the Indus valley. He was promoted regimental lieutenant-colonel on 20 September 1857, and the same year was awarded the patron's gold medal of the Royal Geographical Society. In 1858 he was elected fellow of the Royal Society. In 1859 the survey of Kashmir under T. G. Montgomerie was completed, earning Waugh, who had supervised it, many congratulations.

During Waugh's tenure of office he advanced the triangulation of India by 316,000 square miles, and of this 94,000 were topographically surveyed. He was promoted colonel on 18 February 1861, and retired from the service on 12 March following. He received the honorary rank of major-general on 6 August 1861, and in the same year he was knighted. He retired to London where he was a deputy lieutenant of the city for many years, a prominent member of the council of the Royal Geographical Society (and its vice-president from 1867 to 1870), honorary associate of the geographical societies of Berlin and Italy, a fellow of Calcutta University, and an active committee-man of the London Athenaeum. In 1870 he married Cecilia Eliza Adelaide, daughter of Lieutenant-General Thomas Whitehead KCB, of Uplands Hall, Lancashire. He died at his home, 7 Petersham Terrace, Gloucester Road, London, on 21 February 1878, leaving his wife and at least one son from his first marriage.

The results of Waugh's work while surveyor-general are given in some thirteen volumes and reports deposited in the India Office and in 1861 he published Instructions for Topographical Surveying. He was energetic and enthusiastic, as well as meticulously accurate. He was a distinguished surveyor-general even by comparison with such predecessors as Lambton and Everest.

R. H. Vetch, rev. Elizabeth Baigent DNB

Artist biography

Henry William Pickersgill, (1782–1875), portrait painter, was born on 3 December 1782 in London, and baptized at St Andrew's, Holborn, on 23 June 1808, the son of Thomas Pickersgill and his wife, Mary. The register is annotated ‘born 3 Dec 1782’. Early in life he was adopted by Henry Hall, a silk manufacturer in Spitalfields. He began an apprenticeship as a silk weaver, abandoning this apparently on account of the decline in the silk trade as a result of the wars with France.

Pickersgill then determined to become a painter, an occupation at which he had already shown some skill. He studied under the landscape and marine painter George Arnald ARA (1763–1841) from 1802 to 1805. After this he became a student at the Royal Academy Schools, which he entered on 28 November 1805, through the good offices of Henry Fuseli. He first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1806, when he sent in a portrait of Hall. He exhibited a self-portrait in 1808, and a portrait of Mrs Hall in 1809, as well as a view of Minster Point, Isle of Sheppey. As well as some landscape views, he painted historical and mythological subjects at this time. Often his subjects were inspired by contemporary poetry; examples are The Shepherd Boy (1812) from a poem by Robert Bloomfield and The Death of Blanche from Walter Scott's Lady of the Lake (1814). It was at this time that his reputation as a portrait painter began to grow. He was felt by many at the time to offer a refreshingly sober alternative to the stylish work of the leading portraitist of the day, Sir Thomas Lawrence. The landscape painter Constable, with whom he struck up a friendship, commented in a letter of 1828, ‘Pickersgill is an honourable man, and his art is sound and good’ (Constable's Correspondence, 283).

It would seem that Pickersgill's wife, Maria Price (1784/5–1857), whom he married at St Andrew's, Holborn, on 8 July 1805, before becoming a student at the academy, was a key figure in negotiating his professional success as a portrait painter. ‘He has a clever wife, who manages all matters for him’, observed Constable in his journal on 31 May 1824 (ibid., 282). Mrs Pickersgill was a lady of literary talents, and published a volume of verse, Tales of the Harem, in 1827. This book shows a considerable knowledge of oriental customs and it was presumably this interest that encouraged Pickersgill to paint several studies of young ladies posing in Greek and Near Eastern costume, such as The Greek Girl (1827; Benaki Museum, Athens) and The Syrian Maid (exh. 1837; Tate collection). In his journal entry of 31 May 1824 Constable further gave a picture of Pickersgill suffering from overwork: ‘He is involved in business—but almost dead with work & so nervous that when a knock came to the door he danced like a top & could not hold a limb still’ (ibid.). At that time he was living and working in 18 Soho Square, London.

In 1822 Pickersgill had been finally elected an associate of the Royal Academy, a position he had first sought in 1814. In 1826 he became a Royal Academician. He was a constant and prolific exhibitor at the academy, showing nearly 400 pictures over a period of more than sixty years. During the 1820s Pickersgill's reputation for sober and accurate portraiture was confirmed with the success of his portraits of Hannah More (1822; NPG) and Jeremy Bentham (1829; NPG). Another noted success was his portrait of Wordsworth, which inspired the poet to write a sonnet, now preserved (together with the portrait) at St John's College, Cambridge. From surviving correspondence it would seem that Wordsworth enjoyed the company of the portraitist, who was noted for his lively and sympathetic conversation. As well as the portraits of More, Bentham, and Wordsworth, the National Portrait Gallery contains thirty-two portraits by H. W. Pickersgill including those of William Godwin, M. G. Lewis, and George Stephenson. He painted the celebrated naturalists Richard Owen, Cuvier, and Humboldt for Sir Robert Peel, the botanist Robert Brown for the Linnean Society, and Faraday for the Royal Institution. He also excelled in military portraits, painting General Lord Hill and the duke of Wellington for Lord Hill. There are innumerable portraits by him in Oxford and Cambridge colleges, including one of Sir John Herschel at St John's College, Cambridge. His position as a painter of eminent men and women became almost unchallenged after the death of his rival Thomas Phillips in 1845. As a result of his increased success he moved from his Soho Square dwelling to a larger studio in Stratford Place.

In 1856, on the resignation of Thomas Uwins RA, Pickersgill became librarian of the Royal Academy, a post he held until his death. He last exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1872, and placed himself on the list of retired academicians in 1873. By this time his art had fallen out of favour. This can be seen in the harsh judgement of Richard and Samuel Redgrave in the second edition of their Century of Painters of the English School (1890). Pickersgill, they declared, was ‘a portrait painter whose works are distinguished more for their being satisfactory likenesses than for any artistic qualities they possess’ (Redgrave and Redgrave, 326). Pickersgill left central London about 1870 to settle at Fern Lodge, Church Road, Barnes. He died at his London address, 3 Blandford Square, on 21 April 1875 and was buried in Barnes Common cemetery.

Henry Hall Pickersgill (1812–1861), painter, one of the five children and the eldest son of H. W. Pickersgill and his wife, Maria, was born in London and baptized at St Andrew's, Holborn, on 25 June 1812. He gained some reputation as a painter of historical and fancy works. He studied abroad for some years and first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1834 with The Troubadours. He exhibited Holy Water in 1837, Charity in 1838, and similar subjects in subsequent years. He spent two years in St Petersburg and subsequently resumed painting in London, though working largely for a clientele in manufacturing cities, such as Manchester and Wolverhampton. His wife, Jeannette Caroline Grover [see below], whom he married on 20 July 1837 at St Anne's, Soho, Westminster, was also a painter. H. H. Pickersgill died in Berkeley Street, Portman Square, on 7 January 1861 and was buried in the family vault at Barnes Common cemetery.

H. H. Pickersgill's widow, Jeannette Caroline Pickersgill [née Grover] (1814?–1885), born in Amsterdam, exhibited works at the Royal Academy between 1848 and 1863 and was ‘well known in literary and scientific circles’ (The Times, 27 March 1885). She was the first person to be legally cremated in the United Kingdom, following the trial of William Price, in 1884, when Sir James Fitzjames Stephen held that this mode of disposing of a body was not unlawful. She joined the Cremation Society in January 1885, and died of broncho-pneumonia shortly afterwards, on 20 March 1885, at her home, 5 Cornwall Residences, Clarence Gate, Regent's Park, London. Her will contained instructions for cremation and, after an autopsy, this was carried out on 26 March 1885 at the crematorium established by the Cremation Society at St John's, Woking, Surrey. Her ashes were deposited at Kensal Green cemetery in 1887.

There were a number of other members of the Pickersgill family who were artists in the nineteenth century, notably Henry William's nephew Frederick Richard Pickersgill (1820–1900) and his daughter M. A. Pickersgill (fl. 1832–1838).

William Vaughan DNB