Macleay, William Sharp (DNB00)
|←Macleay, William||Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 35
Macleay, William Sharp
MACLEAY, WILLIAM SHARP (1792–1866), zoologist, eldest son of Alexander Macleay [q. v.] and first cousin of Sir William Macleay [q. v.], was born in London 30 July 1792. He was educated at Westminster and Trinity College, Cambridge, where he graduated as senior optime in 1814, proceeding M.A. in 1818. He was appointed attaché to the embassy in Paris, and shortly afterwards secretary to the board for liquidating British claims in France on the peace of 1815. This necessitated his residence for some years in Paris, where he became intimate with Cuvier, St.-Hilaire, Latreille, and other naturalists. He returned to England in 1819, and in 1821 was elected a fellow of the Linnean Society, of which his father was then secretary. In 1825 Canning made him commissioner of arbitration to the mixed British and Spanish court for the abolition of the slave trade at Havannah. In 1830 he became commissary judge in the same court, and in 1836 judge of the mixed court under the treaty of 1835; but in this year he returned to England, and in 1837 retired on a superannuation allowance. In 1839, after presiding over section D of the British Association at Liverpool, he left for New South Wales, on account of his dislike of the English climate. He there devoted himself mainly to the enlargement of his father's collection of insects, and to the care of his beautiful gardens at Elizabeth Bay, Sydney, where he died unmarried 26 Jan. 1865.
Most of Macleay's contributions to zoological literature belong to the period between 1819 and 1839. The chief is the 'Horæ Entomologicæ, or Essays on Annulose Animals,' in 2 vols., 1819 and 1821, in which he propounded the circular or quinary system, a forcedly artificial attempt at a natural system of classification, which soon became a by-word among naturalists. In 1825 he published, in quarto, 'Annulosa Javanica, or an Attempt to illustrate the Natural Affinities and Analogies of the Insects collected in Java by Thomas Horsfield,' and in 1838 the Annulosa of South Africa.' Twenty-six papers by him are recorded in the 'Royal Society's Catalogue' (iv. 168), mostly dealing with insects, and contributed at first to the 'Transactions of the Linnean Society' (vols, xiv-xvi.), and afterwards to the ' Journal,' 'Transactions,' and 'Proceedings' of the Zoological Society, and to the 'Annals and Magazine of Natural History.' Among these were 'Remarks on the Identity of certain General Laws, which have been lately observed to regulate the Natural Distribution of Insects and Fungi' ('Linn.Trans.' xiv. 1825); 'Anatomical Observations on the Tunicata ' (tift.); 'On Analogy and Affinity' ('Zoological Journal,' vol. iv. 1828-9); 'Anatomy of certain Birds of Cuba' ('Linn. Trans.' vol. xvi. 1833); 'On Trilobites' ('Annals of Natural History,' vol. iv. 1839); and 'The Natural Arrangement of Fishes' (ib. vol. ix. 1842). He also left numerous unpublished manuscripts, some of which, together with much of his correspondence, are in the Linnean Society's library.
[Proceedings of the Linnean Society, 1864-5, pp. c-ciii; Foreign Office List, 1866, 1st edit. p. 177; private information.]