Record

Authorised form of nameRoy; William (1726 - 1790)
SurnameRoy
ForenamesWilliam
Dates1726 - 1790
NationalityBritish
Dates and placesBirth:
Milton Head in Carluke parish, Lanarkshire, Scotland (04 May 1726)
Death:
His house in Argyll Street, London (01 July 1790)
ActivityCareer:
Entered Army; Colonel (by 1767); Major General. After the Jacobite rebellion in 1746, the Duke of Cumberland is said to have observed that it would have been a lot easier with a decent map of the Highlands. Roy embarked on this ambitious task using a length of chain and a compass. It took him nine years but earned him promotion to Surveyor General for the coasts. He suggested a full national survey but the Government refused on graounds of cost. In 1748 he was commissioned by the Royal Society to work out the precise distance between the royal observatories of Greenwich and Paris for the benefit of world science. Important rules of navigation depended on it. And Roy did it using one of the first theodolites - a telescopic device which measures vertical and horizontal angles to account for the earth's curve - and the principles of trigonometry. Even King George III turned up to watch him. His calculations were accurate, the experiment a success and Roy, by then a General, renewed his calls for a national survey. He died one year before it was commissioned by the Board of Ordnance, and the Ordnance Survey was born.
Royal Society activityMembership:
Fellow
Election Date:
26/03/1767
Medals/Prizes:
Copley Medal 1785
SourcesSources:
Bulloch's Roll; DNB
References:
Sir Gavin de Beer and Max H Hey, 'The First Ascent of Mont Blanc' in NR 1954-55 vol 11 pp 236-255
R E W Maddison and Raymond E. Maddison, 'Spring Grove, the Country House of Sir Joseph Banks, Bart., PRS' in NR 1954-55 vol 11 pp 91-99
M Crosland, 'Relationships between the Royal Society and the Academie des Sciences in the late eighteenth century' in NR 2005 vol 59 pp 25-34
J Bennett, 'Plates from Royal Society Publications: Illustrating William Roy's Baseline on Hounslow Heath', in NR 2006 vol 60 pp 225-230
Royal Society codeNA6264
Archives associated with this Fellow
Reference numberTitleDate
EC/1767/02Roy, William: certificate of election to the Royal Society
DM/4/5General William Roy, "Rough estimate of the Expence that may probably be incurred in measuring a Base on Hounslow Heath, and carrying on from thence a series of triangles to Dover, there to be connected with the Triangles already formed in France..."1783
CB/2/75Copy of a letter from Charles Blagden to William Roy24 October 1787
CB/2/141Copy of a letter from Charles Blagden to William Roy6 April 1788
DM/4/6General William Roy, "On the advantages that are likely to arise from the operations on Hounslow Heath"1783
DM/4/34Short note about the measurement of the base on Hounslow Heath, by General William Royc.1792
DM/4/45General William Roy, "Remarks on a paper put into his Majesties hands by the Duke of Marlborough"c.1780s-1790s
DM/4/23General William Roy, "Major General Roy's Account of the Expenditure of £2,000 received by him from Sir Joseph Banks, Bart, for carrying on the Trigonometrical Operation"c.1789
DM/4/39Letter from Mr Cotton, Treasury, to Sir Joseph Banks21 February 1793
DM/4/12Letter from General William Roy, Argyll Street, to Sir Joseph Banks28 June 1784
DM/4/40Letter from Cotton, Treasury Chambers, to Sir Joseph Banks23 February 1793
DM/4/25Letter from Nevil Maskelyne, Geenwich, to General William Roy1 November 1789
CB/1/6/64Letter from Colonel William Roy to Charles Blagden[late 18th century]
IM/003918Roy, William2001
AP/5/25On the Ramming of Fuzes for Bombs6 January 1787
DM/4/26Minute of a meeting of the Council of the Royal Society29 July 1791
L&P/6/252/1Paper, 'Experiments and observations for ascertaining heights by the barometer' by William Roy1777
L&P/6/252/6Letter, 'Experiments and observations for ascertaining heights by the barometer' from William Roy to Nicholas Printer13 January 1776
L&P/6/252/2Plate, 'Scale for the equation of the air and scale exprressing the expansion of different kinds of air with regard to mercury affacted by 212 degrees of farenheit' by William Roy1775
L&P/6/252Paper, 'Experiments and observations for ascertaining heights by the barometer' by William Roy1777
L&P/7/42Letter, 'Measuring heights with the barometer' from George Shuckburgh to William Roy20 April 1778
L&P/9/34/2Table, 'Of the degrees of the Earth constructed on the hypothesis of M. Bouger, where the increments to the degrees of the Meridian above that at the equator follow the ratio of the fourth power or squared squares of the lines of latitude' by William Roy1787
L&P/9/34/3Table, 'Comparison of the observed length of the celestial arc of the Meridian, comprehended between the parallels of Greenwich and Perpignan with the measured and computed lengths of the corresponding terrestrial arc between these parallels' by William Roy1787
L&P/8/153Paper, 'Measurement of a base on Hounslow Heath' by William Roy1785
L&P/9/34/1Paper, 'An account of the mode proposed to be followed in determining the relative situations of the Royal Observatories at Greenwich and Paris' by William Roy1787
L&P/8/153/1Paper, 'Measurement of a base on Hounslow Heath' by William Roy1785
L&P/9/168Paper, 'An account of the trigonometrical operation, whereby the distances between the meridians of the Royal Observatories of Greenwich and Paris has been determined' by William Roy1790
L&P/9/168/1Paper, 'An account of the trigonometrical operation, whereby the distances between the meridians of the Royal Observatories of Greenwich and Paris has been determined' by William Roy1790
L&P/9/61Paper, 'Supplement to paper on the difference of meridian of Greenwich and Paris' by William Roy1787
L&P/9/34Paper, 'An account of the mode proposed to be followed in determining the relative situations of the Royal Observatories at Greenwich and Paris' by William Roy1787
DM/4/4Letter from General William Roy, Argyll Street28 November 1783
MM/3/30Letter from Jesse Ramsden, Piccadilly, to the Council of the Royal Society13 May 1790
DM/4/24General William Roy, Receipts for various sums of money on account from Sir Joseph Banks during the progress of the Trigonometrical Survey1784-1787
MM/11/99'List of Stations and Objects observed by General Roy with the Great Instrument in 1787-8'24 January 1848
DM/4/10Letter from Thomas Hornsby, Oxford, to Sir Joseph Banks25 June 1784
IM/005348Roy, William1993
IM/003917Roy, William2001
DM/4/14Copy of a letter from General William Roy, Argyll Street, to Nevil Maskylne11 December 1786
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