LEGGE, William Vincent (1840-1918)


LEGGE, William Vincent (1840-1918)
ornithologist
son of Robert Vincent Legge, was born at Cullenswood. Tasmania, on 2 September 1840. He was taken to England when a child and educated at Bath, in France and Germany, and at the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich. In 1862 he obtained a commission in the royal artillery, and, after serving five years in England, was stationed with the British forces at Melbourne. In 1868 he was transferred to Ceylon where he formed a large collection of birds and re-organized the museum at Colombo. In 1877 he returned to England and prepared his A History of the Birds of Ceylon, issued in three parts between 1878 and 1880. This admirable work of over 1200 pages with 34 plates in colour and some woodcuts became the standard book on the subject and has not since been superseded. In 1883 Legge was offered and accepted the command of the Tasmanian military forces, and retired from the British army with the rank of lieutenant-colonel. His appointment terminated in June 1890, but in 1898 he was again offered this position and held it until 1902. During this period he re-organized the forces and obtained new artillery for the defence of the Derwent. He had contributed a "Systematic List of the Tasmanian Birds" to the Royal Society of Tasmania in 1886 and revised this for the 1900-1 volume of its Papers and Proceedings. He was president of the biology section of the Australasian Association for the Advancement of Science at the meeting held in New Zealand in 1904, and gave a valuable paper on "The Zoogeographical relations of the Ornis of the various subregions of the 'Australian region', with the Geographical distribution of the principal Genera therein". He died at Cullenswood, Tasmania on 25 March 1918. He was twice married (1) in 1877 to Mrs Alex. Thompson and (2) to Miss Douglas. Two sons of the first marriage survived him. He was a Fellow of the Linnean and Zoological Societies, a member of the British Ornithologists Union, and was first president of the Royal Australian Ornithological Union. His first contribution to the Ibis was a letter published in 1866, and various papers were printed during the eighteen seventies. A list of papers contributed to the Royal Society of Tasmania will be found at page 142 of its Papers and Proceedings for 1918. This list, however, omits his revised list of the birds of Tasmania which will be found on pages 90 to 101 of the Papers and Proceedings for 1900-1. A part of his collection of Ceylonese birds was presented by him to the natural history museum at South Kensington, and the remainder was given to the museum at Hobart.
The Ibis, October 1918, p. 721; The Emu, 1918, p. 77; The Mercury, Hobart, 27 March 1918; Papers and Proceedings of the Royal Society of Tasmania, 1918, p. 142.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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