Taylor, Alexander (1746–1828), military engineer, surveyor, and cartographer, was born in Aberdeen, Scotland; his father may have been William Taylor, a surveyor at Fort George, near Inverness. Having first worked as a land surveyor in Scotland, Alexander joined the army in 1777 and served as a lieutenant in the 81st Foot before moving to Ireland and transferring to the Royal Irish Engineers in 1778. His brother George (1748–1836) also worked as a surveyor and cartographer and Alexander collaborated with him and Andrew Skinner in surveying Irish roads for their book Maps of the roads of Ireland (1778); he also worked with them in their survey of Co. Louth, also published in 1778.
In March 1780 he published a prospectus in the Dublin Evening Post proposing to survey Co. Kildare and draw a new two-inch map of the county. During the next two years he raised 630 guineas (£661. 10s.) in subscriptions for 400 copies of the new map, finally going to print in 1783. In 1785 he proposed a similar project to map Co. Down, and in 1792 proposed working on a new map for Co. Longford. Neither of these projects took place as, promoted to major, he was now working with Col. (later Gen.) Charles Vallancey (qv) on the military survey of Ireland. Richard Lovell Edgeworth (qv) wrote to Vallancey suggesting that Taylor be given leave so that he could finish the Longford map, but he could not be spared. He published a new map of Ireland (1793), which included information on the locations of the various military barracks.
In 1800–09, on foot of a commission from the government, he surveyed and laid out a new road, some 36 miles long, from Mount Venus, Rathfarnham, Co. Dublin through the Dublin and Wicklow mountains to Aughavannagh, Co. Wicklow, which became commonly known as ‘the Military Road’. Appointed principal engineer in 1805 under the Mail Coach Roads Act of that year, at a salary of £500, he planned and supervised surveys of over 2,000 miles of roads in the following ten years; many of these roads were constructed by the grand juries with the aid of government loans and grants and formed the backbone of the Irish main road network for almost 150 years. He served as chief commissioner of the Dublin lighting and paving board from 1809 to 1827 when he was removed from office after an inquiry had found evidence of financial irregularities and malpractices of various kinds.
Alongside his official career as a military engineer, Major Taylor was also occupied with his own business interests. In 1787 he had become a member of the Kilcullen turnpike road committee and commissioned a new survey of the road. In 1797, with his brother, George, and John Anderson he undertook to pay off the debts for the upkeep of the road for a period of fifty years, the three men being allowed percentages of any profits in return. Under their administration the return from this toll road improved dramatically. Alexander Taylor also had rights to the mail contract, which he swapped for Anderson's interest in the toll-road (1804). This left the administration of the Kilcullen toll-road in the hands of the two brothers, who prospered as a result.
He married Elizabeth Bonner of Naas. It is not believed that they had any children: when he died in 1828 his sole heir was his brother, George, and in 1826 he had signed over his interest in the Kilcullen toll-road to his godsons. He was buried in the cemetery at Maudlins, Naas, Co. Kildare. Some of his manuscript maps are in the NLI and also in the British Museum, which holds his draft map of the Wicklow military road. Gen. Sir Alexander Taylor (1826–1912) was a grandson of his brother, George.