William Vincent Legge

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William Vincent Legge
Born (1841-09-02)September 2, 1841
Cullenswood, Tasmania
Died March 25, 1918(1918-03-25) (aged 76)
Nationality Australian
Occupation Military Officer
Known for Author of History of the Birds of Ceylon

Colonel William Vincent Legge (2 September 1841 – 25 March 1918) was an Australian ornithologist.


Legge was born at Cullenswood, Tasmania (then Van Diemen's Land). He was educated mainly in Britain, also in France and Germany, and became a proficient linguist. He was also educated at the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich. In 1862 he was commissioned into the Royal Artillery, serving first in Bath, England, and then in Melbourne for several years. From Melbourne his battery was transferred to Colombo, Ceylon, where he was stationed 1869-1877. He then took a staff appointment at Aberystwith, Cardiganshire, for five years. Subsequently he moved back to Tasmania and served for eleven years as Commandant of the Tasmanian Defence Forces, retiring as Lieutenant-Colonel when he reached the age-limit. He trained Tasmanian forces for the Second Boer War. He died at Cullenswood on 25 March 1918 at the age of 76, survived by his wife and two sons from his first marriage.

Scientific career[edit]

Colonel Legge had a strong interest in ornithology. His experiences in Ceylon led to his authorship of History of the Birds of Ceylon, comprising two quarto-sized volumes, with coloured plates by Keulemans, published in three parts between 1878 and 1880 in London. The work consisted of over 1200 pages with 34 plates in colour; some woodcuts became the standard book on the subject due to their high quality. Part of his collection of Ceylonese birds were presented by him to the Natural History Museum at South Kensington, and the remainder was given to the museum at Hobart.

Legge was elected the founding President of the RAOU in 1901 and served various offices within it, notably on the Check-list Committee, until his death. He was also a Colonial Member of the British Ornithologists' Union, an Honorary Fellow of the American Ornithologists' Union, a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and a member of the Zoological Society of London, the Linnean Society. He was also a founder and president of the Royal Australasian Ornithologists Union and vice-president of the Royal Society of Tasmania. The highest point in the Ben Lomond Range is named Legges Tor in his honour.

See also[edit]


Additional sources listed by the Australian Dictionary of Biography:

  • Cyclopedia of Tasmania, vol 1 (Hob, 1900)
  • P. L. Brown (ed), Clyde Company Papers, vol 1 (Lond, 1941)
  • Votes and Proceedings (House of Assembly, Tasmania), 1884 (162), 1887 (89)
  • L. F. Giblin and E. L. Piesse, ‘The Ben Lomond Range. Note on the height of the Legge Tor’, Royal Society of Tasmania, Papers, 1907
  • ‘Obituary’, Royal Society of Tasmania, Papers, 1918
  • The Mercury (Hobart), 16 August 1916, 27 March 1918, 12 August 1927
  • Examiner (Launceston), 27 March 1918.

External links[edit]