New Book | General William Roy (1726–1790)

Posted in books by Editor on September 6, 2022

From Edinburgh UP:

Humphrey Welfare, General William Roy (1726–1790): Father of the Ordnance Survey (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2022), 310 pages, ISBN: 978-1399505789, $120.

The first biography of William Roy, exploring his life, career, and legacy
• Considers the influences on William Roy and his work by examining the people in his circle, including some of the most famous scientists and explorers of the day
• Reviews the importance of the Military Survey of Scotland to the history of cartography
• Considers the significance of Roy’s experiments in measuring heights by barometric pressure
• Re-assesses—for the first time since 1917—his important contribution to British archaeology

Born in Clydesdale, William Roy was a polymath and a visionary. His work established the path that would lead to the formation of the Ordnance Survey and to all of the paper-based and digital mapping products that we use today. His story—very much one of the Enlightenment—demonstrates how one man’s curiosity and diligence enabled him to excel across a diverse range of topics: military reconnaissance and intelligence; the lessons that could be learned from the past about the tactical use of landscape; the science of determining the height of mountains; and the development of a meticulous methodology to achieve an unprecedented accuracy in topographical measurement. In this biography, Humphrey Welfare uncovers the career and activities of this important figure, and in doing so paints a vivid picture of the inner complexities of 18th-century Britain.

Humphrey Welfare is Visiting Fellow in the School of History, Classics, and Archaeology at the University of Newcastle. Formerly he was Director of the Architectural and Archaeological Survey at the Royal Commission, and, after merger with English Heritage, the Director of Research Projects. His last post before retirement in 2011 was as English Heritage Planning and Development Director for the North. Humphrey has published over forty papers in peer-reviewed journals on the archaeology and history of southern Scotland and northern England, as well as three books, including Roman Camps in England: The Field Archaeology (with V. Swan, HMSO, 1995). He is a former editor of the Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland.


Prologue: A Dinner Party for Captain Cook

1  Foundations
2  The Map-maker: Developing the Soldier’s Eye
3  The Military Engineer: Reconnaissance, Resources, and Fortifications
4  The Antiquary in the Field: Empathy with the Army of Rome
5  The Practical and Sociable Scientist: Hypsometry and the Royal Society
6  The Geodesist: Large Triangles and Miniscule Adjustments
7  Aftermath and Legacy: The Birth of the Ordnance Survey

Appendix 1  Chronology
Appendix 2  General Roy’s Instructions on Reconnoitring
Appendix 3  Glossary

Bibliographical References


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