John Cowley was a professor of mathematics at the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, London, for a number of years between 1761 and 1773. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in April, 1768. His mathematical methods were famous, but he was also an important geographer as well as Cartographer Royal to King George World War II He specialised in maps that depicted the counties of the United Kingdom from which arose his most famous work, Counties of England.
Cowley published several maps, many of minute detail, and on them often appeared his name although on others appeared the name of Emanuel Bowen acting as engraver.
The work was structured as questions and answers with decorative maps added later. His maps contained longer titles than those usually found on the standard miniature maps.
John Cowley collaborated with Robert Dodsley for several years in the creation of his maps which explains why the maps were ascribed to Dodsley/Cowley. Among his works is remembered the superb engravings representing the constellation drawn on glass globes created by Thomas Heath.
He also published a number of introductory works on solid geometry incorporating fold-up figures: Geometry Made Easy (1752), An Appendix to Euclid"s Elements (1758) and The Theory of Perspective Demonstrated (1765).
He taught geometry to subscribers of the Saint Martin"s Lane Academy, a drawing school established by William Hogarth and John Ellys. Cowley died in Walworth, Surrey.