William Lucas Distant

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William Lucas Distant
Born(1845-11-12)12 November 1845
Died4 February 1922(1922-02-04) (aged 76)
Wanstead, England
Occupation Entomologist
Spouse(s)Edith Blanche de Rubain

William Lucas Distant (12 November 1845 Rotherhithe – 4 February 1922 Wanstead) was an English entomologist.

Rotherhithe residential district in southeast London, England

Rotherhithe is a residential district in south-east London, England, and part of the London Borough of Southwark. It is part of the traditional county of Surrey, but for administrative purposes was part of the County of London following the passing of the Local Government Act 1888, it later became part of Greater London in 1965. Historically the area was the most northeastern settlement in the county of Surrey. It is located on a peninsula on the south bank of the Thames, facing Wapping and the Isle of Dogs on the north bank, and is a part of the Docklands area. It borders Bermondsey to the west and Deptford to the south east.

Wanstead district in east London, England

Wanstead is a district of east London, England, which is part of the London Borough of Redbridge.



Early years

Distant was born in Rotherhithe, the son of whaling captain Alexander Distant. [1]

A whaling trip with his father in 1867 (he considered 5 August 1867 as the most eventful day in his life [1] ) to the Malay Peninsula aroused his interest in natural history, and resulted in the publication of Rhopalocera Malayana (1882–1886), a description of the butterflies of the Malay Peninsula.

Malay Peninsula peninsula in Southeast Asia

The Malay Peninsula is a peninsula in Southeast Asia. The land mass runs approximately north-south and, at its terminus, is the southernmost point of the Asian mainland. The area contains Peninsular Malaysia, Southern Thailand, and the southernmost tip of Myanmar (Kawthaung) as well as the city state Singapore, indigenous to or historically inhabited by the Malays, an Austronesian people.

Natural history Study of organisms including plants or animals in their environment

Natural history is a domain of inquiry involving organisms including animals, fungi and plants in their environment; leaning more towards observational than experimental methods of study. A person who studies natural history is called a naturalist or natural historian.


Much of Distant's early life was spent working in a London tannery, and while employed there he made two long visits to the Transvaal. The first resulted in the publication of A Naturalist in the Transvaal (1892). The second visit, of some four years, gave him time to amass a large collection of insects, of which many were described in Insecta Transvaaliensia (1900–1911). In 1890 he married Edith Blanche de Rubain. In 1897 he succeeded James Edmund Harting as editor of The Zoologist . [1] From 1899 to 1920 he was employed by the Natural History Museum, describing many new species found in their collection, and devoting most of his time to the Rhynchota (true bugs).

South African Republic Former republic in southern Africa

The South African Republic, also referred to as the Transvaal Republic, was an independent and internationally recognised state located in what is now South Africa, from 1852 to 1902. The ZAR defeated the British Empire in what is often referred to as the First Boer War and remained independent until the end of the Second Boer War on 31 May 1902, when it was forced to surrender to the British. After the war the territory of the ZAR became the Transvaal Colony.

James Edmund Fotheringham Harting was an English ornithologist and naturalist.

The Zoologist was a monthly natural history magazine established in 1843 by Edward Newman and published in London. Newman acted as editor-in-chief until his death in 1876, when he was succeeded by James Edmund Harting (1876–1896) and William Lucas Distant (1897–1916).

Part of plate XVII from Insecta Transvaaliensia Distant00.png
Part of plate XVII from Insecta Transvaaliensia

His other works included Volume I of the Heteroptera and part of Volume I of the Homoptera of the Biologia Centrali-Americana (1880–1900), and the Hemiptera volumes of The Fauna of British India, Including Ceylon and Burma (1902–1918).

Heteroptera suborder of insects

The Heteroptera are a group of about 40,000 species of insects in the order Hemiptera. They are sometimes called "true bugs", though that name more commonly refers to the Hemiptera as a whole. "Typical bugs" might be used as a more unequivocal alternative, since the heteropterans are most consistently and universally termed "bugs" among the Hemiptera. "Heteroptera" is Greek for "different wings": most species have forewings with both membranous and hardened portions ; members of the primitive sub-group Enicocephalomorpha have completely membranous wings.

Homoptera is a suborder of order Hemiptera that is considered by some taxonomists to be paraphyletic, and therefore deprecated (obsolete). It was therefore split into the suborders Sternorrhyncha, Auchenorrhyncha, and Coleorrhyncha. The earlier work was based on nuclear DNA, but more recent phylogenetic analysis using mitochondrial DNA suggest that Homoptera may be a monophyletic group after all, a sister group of Heteroptera. The cause of the disparity in the analyses is suggested to be the long branch attraction effect in phylogenetic analysis, due to rapidly evolving DNA regions.

Hemiptera Order of insects often called bugs

The Hemiptera or true bugs are an order of insects comprising some 50,000 to 80,000 species of groups such as the cicadas, aphids, planthoppers, leafhoppers, and shield bugs. They range in size from 1 mm (0.04 in) to around 15 cm (6 in), and share a common arrangement of sucking mouthparts. The name "true bugs" is sometimes limited to the suborder Heteroptera. Many insects commonly known as "bugs" belong to other orders; for example, the lovebug is a fly, while the May bug and ladybug are beetles.

Later life

Distant's collection of 50,000 specimens was purchased by the Natural History Museum in 1920. He died of cancer at Wanstead. [2]


Distant is commemorated in the scientific name of a species of snake, Leptotyphlops distanti . [3]


A partial list of works is as follows. [4]

Related Research Articles

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<i>Acanalonia</i> genus of insects

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<i>Dulichius inflatus</i> species of insect

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<i>Platypleura sylvia</i>

Platypleura sylvia is a species of cicada endemic to South Africa. It was first described and named by William Lucas Distant in 1899 in the Annals and Magazine of Natural History. Insecta transvaaliensia was self-published by Distant and appeared in twelve parts over the period 1900-1911. The series was an account of Distant's insect-collecting trips through the Transvaal. The collected parts were published as a single volume after Distant's death by Francis Edwards of London in 1924.

Urostylididae family of insects

Urostylididae is a family of true bugs and is considered a basal or "primitive" family within the stink-bug lineage. They are found only in Asia. Older works used the spelling Urostylidae but this clashes with the name used for a protozoan family and a spelling correction (emendation) has been suggested that also avoids the confusion created by homonyms. The family name Urolabididae has also been used for some members in the past.

<i>Peloridium hammoniorum</i> species of insect

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Euterpnosia is a genus of cicada native to the island of Formosa, the Ryukyu Archipelago, Japan, Hainan and mainland Asia - China, Bhutan, Nepal and Vietnam. The type species is Euterpnosia chibensisMatsumura, 1917.

The Reverend Andrew Matthews, M.A. was a British clergyman and an entomologist who specialised in beetles (Coleoptera).

<i>Prosapia</i> genus of insects

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Perkinsiella is a genus of delphacid planthoppers in the family Delphacidae. There are at least 30 described species in Perkinsiella.

<i>Rhagovelia distincta</i> species of insect

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<i>Dundubia</i> genus of insects

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Coytiera is a genus of leaf beetles in the subfamily Eumolpinae. It is distributed in South America.


  1. 1 2 3 Rao, BR Subba (1998) History of Entomology in India. Institution of Agricultural Technologists, Bangalore.
  2. "Obituary - W. L. Distant". The Entomologist. London: Simpkin, Marshall & Co.: 70 1922. Retrieved 27 July 2011.
  3. Beolens, Bo; Watkins, Michael; Grayson, Michael (2011). The Eponym Dictionary of Reptiles. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. xiii + 296 pp. ISBN   978-1-4214-0135-5. ("Distant", p. 73).
  4. Dolling, W. R. 1991. Bibliographies of the works of W. L. Distant and G. W. Kirkaldy. Tymbal, suppl. no. 1: 60 pp.
  5. Insecta Transvaaliensia (1900-1911): OCLC   668405524; pt.4 Lepidoptera (1903) in Biodiversity Heritage Library.
  6. Homoptera (1912): OCLC   843365845