William Lucas Distant

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

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


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.


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).

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).

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]


  1. 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
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