Brownrigg, John (1746/7–1838), land and canal surveyor, was apprenticed to, and then in partnership with, Bernard Scalé (1774–7) before becoming the partner of Thomas Sherrard at 123 Lower Abbey Street, Dublin. Nothing has been ascertained of his origins. He surveyed estates, canals, and roads, working in Dublin and in no fewer than sixteen Irish counties. In the mid-1780s he surveyed the Grand Canal from Dublin to the river Barrow at Monastereven, and in 1789 he advised on the construction of the Royal Canal. When work slowed down in 1793 Brownrigg, by now engineer to the directors general of inland navigation, led the investigation. He was critical of Richard Evans (qv), the engineer responsible for the Royal Canal, over the rate of progress and high expenditure, almost having Evans dismissed. The friction continued through 1794, when Evans was further criticised by Brownrigg for inefficiency, mismanagement of funds, and poor safety procedures. The summoning of Thomas Hyde Page (qv) and the eminent William Jessop (qv) to support Brownrigg's contentions was an embarrassing occasion for both of these men, who were reluctant to be drawn into the dispute. Evans, however, retained his position. In 1801 Brownrigg was again to the fore in denigrating the quality of work on the Royal Canal as the delays were causing considerable anxiety and financial losses to the company directors themselves.
As a cartographer Brownrigg was one of the so-called ‘French school’ – the professional descendants of John Rocque (qv). Many fine estate maps bear his name. Later he was an engineer to the directors general of inland navigation (set up in 1800) and became the government's examiner of surveys of crown lands. He was also a middleman on the estate of Lord Downshire at Edenderry, King's Co. (Offaly). From about 1805 his business was known as John Brownrigg & Co. He had one antiquarian production to his name – a paper on the fort of Ardnorcher in Co. Westmeath (RIA Trans., ii, 1787–8, section 3, 43–50). In November 1836, though hampered by deafness, Brownrigg was still an active magistrate at Edenderry. He died 29 September 1838, aged ninety-one.
He married Elizabeth Campbell (1757?–1827). Their son James, senior partner in Brownrigg, Longfield & Murray, surveyed the Downshire estates in 1803–4, and was Lord Downshire's agent at Edenderry before his death from fever in 1817 aged thirty-six. Their daughter Susan married Lancelot Croasdaile, who in 1811 was high sheriff of Queen's Co. (Laois).