Open main menu

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 lifeEdit

Vigors was born at Old Leighlin, County Carlow. He studied at Trinity College, Oxford. He served in the army during the Peninsular War from 1809 to 1811. He then returned to Oxford, graduating in 1815. He practiced as a barrister and became a Doctor of Civil Law in 1832.[1]


Vigors described the "Sabine's snipe", shown here in a woodcut from Bewick's British Birds, in 1825.[2]

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[3] 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.[4]


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.


  1. ^ Nicholas Aylward Vigors M.P. (1786-1840) by Brother P. J, Kavanagh, M.A., Carlow County - Ireland Genealogical Projects
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ Barrett-Hamilton, GEH (January 1895). "Sabine's Snipe. Gallinago Coelestis, var. Sabinii". The Irish Naturalist. 4 (1): 12–17. JSTOR 25584879.
  4. ^ "General Notes" (PDF). The Wilson Bulletin. 57 (1): 75–76. March 1945.


  • Webb, Alfred (1878). "Vigors, Nicholas Aylward" . A Compendium of Irish Biography. Dublin: M. H. Gill & son – via Wikisource.
  • Kavanagh, P. J. (1983). "Nicholas Aylward Vigors, MP, 1786-1840". Carloviana: [Journal of the Old Carlow Society]. 30: 15–19.
  • Parliamentary Election Results in Ireland, 1801-1922, edited by B.M. Walker (Royal Irish Academy 1978)

External linksEdit