Gerard, Alexander

Biography: Surveyor and explorer. Born Old Machar, Old Aberdeen 1792, the second son of Gilbert Gerard, professor of Greek at King's Coll., and Helen Duncan, daughter of the provost of Aberdeen. M.A., King's Coll., 1808. Took up a cadetship in the 13th native infantry of the East India Company's Bengal army. Surveyed the routes from Delhi to Lahore and Ludhiana to Bareilly, 1812. Promoted to lieutenant, 1814, and appointed to survey Saharanpur in the upper Ganges. Recalled to the regiment during the Anglo-Nepal war, but returned to Saharanpur to complete his survey from 1815-19. Transferred to the Sirmur battalion in 1819. Gerard's health suffered in the plains, so during the summer he would retreat to Sabathu in the hills to draw up his plans. From Sabathu he made several expeditions to the Sutlej valley in the Himalayas, which was then relatively unknown to Europeans. He wrote a route book for this expedition in 1831, which was published posthumously in 1841. He undertook an expedition up the Spiti river to Shipki in Sept 1818 with his brother, and published three accounts of the trip. In June 1821, he undertook his longest Himalayan expedition, ascending the dangerous Shatul Pass, visiting the Yusu Pass in the east, then continuing to the Borendo Pass at 15,000 ft and the Baspa valley. He then crossed the Keobarang Pass, but was prevented by Tibetan guards from travelling any further east, so travelled back down the Sutlej river, crossed the Manirang Pass and headed towards the city of Leh. However, he was once more turned away by Tibetan guards, so he returned to Kotgarh. Despite his disappointment at not being able to enter Tibet, he amassed a great amount of geographical information which he used to produce maps of the area. His account of the expedition was published in 1840. He undertook a survey of Malwa and Rajputana in 1822, but struggled throughout with illness. In 1824 he was appointed political agent at Bangur and then Nasirabad, and did not return to survey work til 1826. He was forced to abandon the survey in 1827 due to rheumatic pain and fever. In 1836 he retired from the army and returned to Scotland, and died in Aberdeen in December 1839, three weeks before his account of the 1821 expedition was published.

Biography Date: 1792-1839

Biography References: LOC; DNB; Fasti 270;


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