WILLIAM SHARP MACLEAY or MCLEAY (21 July 1792 – 26 January 1865)
was a British civil servant and entomologist .
After graduating, he worked for the British embassy in
following his interest in natural history at the same time, publishing
essays on insects and corresponding with
Charles Darwin .
Macleay moved to
Cuba , where he was in turn commissioner of
arbitration, commissary judge and then judge. Retiring from this work,
he emigrated to
Australia where he continued to collect insects and
studied marine natural history.
* 1 Early life
* 2 Early scientific career
* 5 References
* 6 Bibliography
* 7 External links
Macleay was born in
London , eldest son of
Alexander Macleay who
named him for his then business partner, fellow wine merchant William
Sharp. He attended
Westminster School and Trinity College, Cambridge
graduating with honours in 1814. He was then appointed attaché to
the British embassy at
Paris , and secretary to the board for
liquidating British claims on the French government, and following his
father in taking an interest in natural history became friendly with
Georges Cuvier , and other celebrated men of science.
EARLY SCIENTIFIC CAREER
Macleay's principal work was Horae Entomologicae; or, Essays on the
Annulose Animals, parts 1-2 (1819–1821). The first part of Horae
Entomologicae included a reexamination of Linnaeus' genus Scarabaeus
(twelfth edition of Systema Naturae, 1767) within the taxonomic
context of Pierre Andre Latreille's "Lamellicornes" becoming the first
monographer of what today is the family
Scarabaeidae . He also
published Annulosa Javanica or an Attempt to illustrate the Natural
Affinities and Analogies of the Insects collected in Java by T.
Horsfield, no. 1 (London, 1825). Classification of insects under
Quinarian system by Macleay, schematic diagram from an 1845 book
James Rennie .
Other minor publications on insects including Remarks on the
devastation occasioned by Hylobius abietis in fir plantations in the
Zoological Journal and several notes in the Transactions of the
Entomological Society of
London . Macleay sent many insects to
Frederick William Hope , which are now preserved in the Hope
Entomology at Oxford University. He was also a
Charles Darwin , though he disagreed fervently with
the latter's theories of evolution.
Macleay was the originator of the short-lived
Quinarian system of
classification, which is used extensively in his Horae Entomologicae.
This was an attempt to classify animals into related groups and was
put forward in Part 2 of his book Horae Entomologicae (1821).
According to his reasoning, each major group of animals could be
subdivided into 5 subgroups, and each sub-group could be further
divided into 5. MacLeay was one of the first systematists to note the
difference between similarity due to true relation, called affinity,
and similarity due to function, called analogy. Major groups united by
affinities could also be related to other groups or subgroups by
overlaps known as osculations, based on analogy. As precursors of the
concept of homology, these proposals were taken very seriously at the
time, and Charles Darwin, who got to know Macleay after he returned
from the Beagle voyage, tried to fit Quinarian ideas into his
evolutionary schemes up to about 1845 (see "The Development of
Darwin's Theory" by Dov Ospovat, 1981). The ideas were also taken up
by William Swainson ,
Nicholas Aylward Vigors
Nicholas Aylward Vigors , and others.
In 1825, Macleay was appointed British commissioner of arbitration to
the joint British and Spanish Court of Commission in
for the abolition of the slave trade ; he became commissary judge in
1830, and then was appointed judge to the Mixed Tribunal of Justice in
1833. He retired in 1836 (at the age of 44) on a pension of £900.
Throughout these years he also maintained a correspondence with his
sister Frances (Fanny) Leonora Macleay (1793–1836). These letters
typically convey a harsh, even severe impression of his character.
Macleay had maintained his scientific work whilst in
Havana and was
elected to the
Linnean Society , of which his father had been
Secretary (1798–1825), and the Zoological Society . He was elected
president of the natural history section of the British Association
for the Advancement of Science .
Macleay emigrated to
Australia in 1839, living briefly at the
Colonial Secretary's House in Macquarie Place with his parents before
moving in September of that year to the family's still unfinished
Elizabeth Bay House
Elizabeth Bay House . He took possession of the estate in 1845 having
taken on his father Alexander's considerable debts and the mortgages
on the property (he formally inherited it in 1848). In an attempt to
raise funds he also sold furniture he had acquired in
London on behalf
of his father but for which he had never been reimbursed. He did not
however complete the house, and it remained without its planned
colonnade. The house became a meeting place for a small circle of
intellectuals and naturalists, though Macleay was not known for being
actively sociable. Thomas Mitchell Jnr satirised the house and owner:
'Bleak House blears blindly o'er Eliza's Bay, chill as its owner's
hospitality' (Carlin, p45). Macleay was interested in the natural
history of Australia, the marine fauna around
Port Jackson in
particular. Later he collected a large number of Australian insects;
on his death these were bequeathed to his cousin William John Macleay
, whose interest in natural history he encouraged and who in 1888
transferred them to the
Macleay Museum ,
University of Sydney
University of Sydney , for
which act he was knighted. He also encouraged the scientific interests
of his brother
George Macleay .
Macleay lived alone at
Elizabeth Bay House
Elizabeth Bay House until his death on 26
* ^ "Macleay, William Sharp (FML810WS)". A Cambridge Alumni
Database. University of Cambridge.
* ^ A B Boulger 1893 .
* Boulger, George Simonds (1893). "Macleay, William Sharp". In Lee,
Dictionary of National Biography
Dictionary of National Biography . 35. London: Smith, Elder &
* A.Y. Swainston (1985). William Sharp Macleay, Linnean, 1 (5) :
* Serle, Percival (1949). "Macleay, William Sharp". Dictionary of
Australian Biography . Sydney: Angus and Robertson.
* David S. Macmillan, 'Macleay, William Sharp (1792 - 1865)',
Australian Dictionary of Biography , Volume 2, MUP , 1967, pp.
* Carlin, Scott. (2000) Elizabeth Bay House: A History and a Guide.
Sydney, Historic Houses Trust.
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES LISTED BY THE AUSTRALIAN DICTIONARY OF
* P. P. King, Narrative of a Survey of the Intertropical and Western
Coasts of Australia, vols 1-2 (Lond, 1827)
Linnean Society of New South Wales, Macleay Memorial Volume, ed J.
J. Fletcher (Syd, 1893)
* Calcutta Journal of Natural History, July 1841
* Annals of Natural History, 8 (1841), 9 (1842)
* Tasmanian Journal of Natural Science, 3 (1849)
* Macleay papers (
University of Sydney
University of Sydney Archives)