LEA, Arthur Mills (1868-1932)


LEA, Arthur Mills (1868-1932)
entomologist
was born at Sydney on 10 August 1868. He worked first for a firm of chartered accountants at Sydney but, having taken up entomology as a hobby, he joined the department of agriculture, New South Wales, in 1892 as assistant entomologist, and in 1895 was appointed government entomologist of Western Australia. In 1899 he transferred to a similar position in Tasmania, and did useful research work in connexion with the insect pests of fruit. He joined the South Australian museum as entomologist in 1911, and during his 21 years at the museum made his department a most important one. It was in a relatively poor condition when he took it over, but it was built up until there were more than 1,000,000 specimens in its cabinets. He lectured on forest entomology to students of the university of Adelaide, and on a variety of subjects to societies and scientific bodies. Inquiries from other states were frequently referred to him. He carried out an extensive investigation into insect pests in 1918-19 when the wheat stored in Australia on account of the war was being destroyed by weevils, and in 1924 spent a year in Queensland, Thursday Island, and the East Indies, studying methods of controlling the coconut moth, which was threatening the copra industry in Fiji. He found that a Trachinid fly was controlling a similar pest in Malaya and Java, which was brought to Fiji with successful results. Lea encouraged private workers in his field, and conducted a large correspondence dealing with specimens submitted, and inquiries made by farmers. In addition he was a prolific writer of papers, no fewer than 43 of these were printed in the Transactions of the Royal Society of South Australia. He specialized on the Coleoptera, and his papers on them were a valuable contribution to the knowledge of the order. Several of these were published by the Entomological Society of London, and some of his work was printed in Sweden, Germany and Belgium. He gave much time to describing new species of insects, and at the time of his death had described nearly 5500. He died suddenly at Adelaide on 29 February 1932 leaving a widow and three daughters. He was a fellow of the Linnean Society of New South Wales, of the Royal Society of South Australia, of the Entomological Society of London, and was also a member of several other scientific societies.
Lea was a thoroughly amiable man of the finest character, and an untiring worker. A bibliography of his papers listing 281 items will be found in Records of the South Australian Museum, vol. IV, No. 4. These alone are a remarkable record as the work of one man. But apart from his papers Lea did most valuable practical work in relation to the control of pests both in Tasmania and South Australia.
H. M. Hale, Obituary and Bibliography of A. M. Lea; Records of the South Australian Museum, vol. IV, No. 4, 1932; Transactions of the Royal Society of South Australia, vol. LVI, p. 1; F. Erasmus Wilson, The Victorian Naturalist, May 1932, p. 15; The Advertiser, Adelaide, 1 March 1932; The Entomologists' Monthly Magazine, vol. LXVIII, p. 119; A. Musgrave, Bibliography of Australian Entomology (includes over 230 papers by Lea); The Australian Museum Magazine, 16 April 1932, p. 342.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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