Macleay, Alexander (DNB00)

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MACLEAY, ALEXANDER (1767–1848), entomologist and colonial statesman, born in Ross-shire 24 June 1767, was son of William Macleay, the representative of one of the oldest Scots families, who was provost of Wick and deputy-lieutenant of Caithness. Macleay was educated for a commercial career; but in 1795 became chief clerk in the prisoners-of-war office in London; in 1797 head of the correspondence department of the transport board; and in 1806 secretary of that board. This post he retained until 1818, when the board was abolished and he was pensioned. In 1825, at the solicitation of Earl Bathurst, he became colonial secretary for New South Wales, and he filled the office until 1837. Continuing to reside in the colony, he was chosen in 1843 the first speaker of the Legislative Council, which was then established for the first time. He retired from public life in May 1846. Macleay had become a fellow of the Linnean Society in 1794, and four years later he succeeded Thomas Marsham [q. v.] as secretary, an office that he continued to hold till he left England in 1825. He was elected F.R.S. in 1809, and was also a foreign member of the Academy of Sciences of Stockholm, and a corresponding member of that of Turin. By 1825 he had amassed what was probably the finest private collection of insects then in existence; but, though he prepared a monograph on the genus Paussus, it was never published. Robert Brown spoke of him as 'a practical botanist.' He was the first president of the Australian Museum at Sydney, founded in 1836. Macleay died at Sydney 18 July 1848. There is an oil portrait of him by Lawrence at the Linnean Society's rooms, and his name was given by Robert Brown to the genus Macleaya, belonging to the poppy family. A number of letters from various naturalists to Macleay are in the library of the Linnean Society.

While still young he married a Miss Barclay of Urie, by whom he had a large family. His eldest son, William Sharp, is separately noticed.

His second son, Sir George Macleay (1809-1891}, Australian explorer and statesman, was educated at Westminster. Going out to Australia, he accompanied Sturt in one of his exploring expeditions in South Australia, and, becoming a member of the Legislative Council of New South Wales, was speaker from 1843 to 1846. On retiring from the council he was created a C.M.G. in 1869, and in 1875 became K.C.M.G. Settling at Pendell Court, Blechingley, Surrey, he devoted his attention to horticulture, but died at Mentone on 24 June 1891. Much foreign travel and wide reading rendered him a very attractive conversationalist, and his friends included the chief men of science of his time, to whom he extended a liberal hospitality. He married twice (Times. 27 June 1891).

His youngest son, James Robert Macleay (1811–1892), of the foreign office, was from 1843 to 1858 secretary and registrar to the mixed British and Portuguese commission at the Cape of Good Hope for the suppression of the slave trade (Times, 31 Oct. 1892).

[Proceedings of the Linnean Society, ii. 46.]

G. S. B.