Nicholas Aylward Vigors

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Painting, oil on canvas, of a toucan by Vigors, 1831

Nicholas Aylward Vigors (1785 – 26 October 1840) was an Irish zoologist and politician. He popularized the classification of birds on the basis of the quinarian system.

Early life[edit]

Vigors was born at Old Leighlin, County Carlow on 1785 as first son from Capt. Nicholas Aylward Vigors which served in 29th (Worcestershire) Regiment and, his first wife, Catherine Vigors, daughter of Solomon Richards of Solsborough. He matriculated at Trinity College, Oxford on November 1803 before he was admitted at Lincoln's Inn on November 1806. Without completing his studies, he served in the army during the Peninsular War from 1809 to 1811 and wounded in Battle of Barossa on 5 March 1811.[1] Though, he haven't completed his studies yet, he still published "An inquiry into the nature and extent of poetick licence" [2] in London at 1810. He then returned to Oxford to continued his studies and achieved his Bachelor of Arts on 1817 and Master of Arts on 1818. He practiced as a barrister and became a Doctor of Civil Law in 1832.[3]


Vigors described the "Sabine's snipe", shown here in a woodcut from Bewick's British Birds, in 1825.[4]

Vigors was a co-founder of the Zoological Society of London in 1826, and its first secretary until 1833. In that year, he founded what became the Royal Entomological Society of London. He was a fellow of the Linnean Society and the Royal Society. He was the author of 40 papers, mostly on ornithology. He described 110 species of birds, enough to rank him among the top 30 bird authors historically. He provided the text for John Gould's A Century of Birds from the Himalaya Mountains (1830–32).

One bird that he described was "Sabine's snipe". This was treated as a common snipe by Barrett-Hamilton in 1895[5] and by Meinertzhagen in 1926, but was thought to be probably a Wilson's snipe in 1945. Vigors lent a skin for later editions of Thomas Bewick's History of British Birds.[6]


Vigors succeeded to his father's estate in 1828. He was MP for the borough of Carlow from 1832 until 1835. He briefly represented the constituency of County Carlow in 1835. Vigors had been elected in a by-election in June after the Conservative MPs originally returned at the 1835 United Kingdom general election were unseated on petition and a new writ issued. On 19 August 1835 Vigors and his running mate, in the two member county constituency, were unseated on petition. The same two Conservatives who had previously been unseated were awarded the seats. On the death of one of them, Vigors won the subsequent by-election in 1837 and retained the seat until his own death.

Plaques to Vigors in Leighlinbridge


  1. ^ Long, Patrick (October 2009). "Vigors, Nicholas Aylward". Retrieved 7 February 2022.
  2. ^ Vigors, Nicholas Aylward (1810). An inquiry into the nature and extent of poetick licence, by N.A. Vigors, jun. esq. London: J. Mackinlay.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  3. ^ Kavanagh, P. J. "Nicholas Aylward Vigors M.P. 1786-1840". Retrieved 7 February 2022.
  4. ^ Vigors, NA (May 1825). "XXVI. A Description of a new Species of Scolopax lately discovered in the British Islands: with Observations on the Anas glocitans of Pallas, and a Description of the Female of that Species". Transactions of the Linnean Society of London. 14 (3): 556–562. doi:10.1111/j.1095-8339.1823.tb00102.x.
  5. ^ Barrett-Hamilton, GEH (January 1895). "Sabine's Snipe. Gallinago Coelestis, var. Sabinii". The Irish Naturalist. 4 (1): 12–17. JSTOR 25584879.
  6. ^ "General Notes" (PDF). The Wilson Bulletin. 57 (1): 75–76. March 1945.


External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by Member of Parliament for Carlow
Succeeded by
Preceded by Member of Parliament for County Carlow
With: Alexander Raphael
Succeeded by
Preceded by Member of Parliament for County Carlow
With: Alexander Raphael
Succeeded by
Professional and academic associations
New institution Secretary of the Zoological Society of London
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