Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Macleay, William

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MACLEAY, Sir WILLIAM (1820–1891), Australian statesman and naturalist, born 13 June 1820, was second son of Kenneth Macleay of Newmore, Ross-shire, by Isabella Home of Stirkoke, Caithness-shire, and was first cousin of William Sharp Macleay [q. v.] He was educated at the New Academy, Edinburgh, and afterwards at the university, where he does not seem to have graduated. He emigrated to Australia in 1839 by the persuasion of his uncle, Alexander Macleay [q. v.] Being provided with capital he at once commenced sheep-farming, buying a run on the Murrumbidgee. From 1854 until 1874 he was member of the Legislative Assembly, sitting first for the Lachlan and Lower Darling districts, and later for Murrumbidgee. Macleay shared with other members of his family a taste for natural history.

He devoted himself particularly to entomology, formed a very valuable museum, and was the first president of the Entomological, afterwards Linnean, Society of New South Wales, established at Sydney 11 April 1862. He contributed ten papers on Australian insects to the first two volumes of the 'Transactions' of the Society, 1863-73 (Royal Society's Cat. iv. 168, viii. 800). To this society he also at a later date gave funds for endowment and a house at Elizabeth Bay, and in order to promote higher scientific study in the colony he set aside 40,000l., the interest on which was expended on research fellowships in the university of New South Wales. He further gave to the university his private museum, for which a building was erected at the public expense. In 1874 Macleay fitted out a vessel, the Chevert, and with Captain Onslow made an expedition to the south-west coast of New Guinea, exploring the harbours and collecting many specimens. On his return he was appointed a member of the Legislative Council. He was knighted in 1889, and died 7 Dec. 1891. He had married, in June 1867, Susan Emmeline, daughter of Edward (afterwards Sir Edward) Deas Thompson. A portrait of Macleay is in 'The Australian Portrait Gallery.'

[Heaton's Australian Dates and Men of the Time; Australian Portrait Gallery; Epitome of the Official History of New South Wales Times, 8 Dec. 1891.]

W. A. J. A.