Concept

William Roy

Summary
Major-General William Roy (4 May 1726 - 1 July 1790) was a Scottish military engineer, surveyor, and antiquarian. He was an innovator who applied new scientific discoveries and newly emerging technologies to the accurate geodetic mapping of Great Britain. His masterpiece is usually referred to as Roy's Map of Scotland. It was Roy's advocacy and leadership that led to the creation of the Ordnance Survey in 1791, the year after his death. His technical work in the establishment of a surveying baseline won him the Copley Medal in 1785. His maps and drawings of Roman archaeological sites in Scotland were the first accurate and systematic study of the subject, and have not been improved upon even today. Roy was a fellow of the Royal Society and a member of the Society of Antiquaries of London. Roy was born at Milton Head in Carluke parish in South Lanarkshire on 4 May 1726. His father was a factor in the service of the Gordons/Hamiltons of Hallcraig, as well as an elder of the Kirk. His grandfather had held a similar position as factor, and his uncle acted in that capacity for the Lockharts of Lee. Thus Roy grew up in an environment where making land surveys and using maps was part of the daily business. He was educated in Carluke parish school and then Lanark Grammar School. There is no record of a further education such as that enjoyed by his younger brother James. The next few years of his life are poorly documented. Owen and Pilbeam claim that "Some time after 1738 (when Roy was 12) he moved to Edinburgh and gained experience of surveying and making plans, probably as a civilian draughtsman at the office of the Board of Ordnance at Edinburgh Castle." It is possible that he may have been employed there as a boy because it was normal procedure for the board to employ "cadets" aged ten or eleven who were trained to become civilian surveyors and draughtsmen. Roy was certainly associated with the board by 1746 (aged 20), for he was the author of an official map of Culloden made soon after the battle.
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