Coolidge was born in New York City as the son of Frederic William Skinner Coolidge, a Boston merchant, and Elisabeth Neville Brevoort, sister of James Carson Brevoort and Meta Brevoort. He studied history and law at St. Paul's School in Concord, New Hampshire, at Elizabeth College, Guernsey, and at Exeter College, Oxford. In 1875, he became a Fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford. From 1880 to 1881 he was professor of British history at Saint David's College in Lampeter and in 1883 he became a priest of the Anglican church.
In 1870 at the age of twenty he was made a member of the Alpine Club. Coolidge was one of the great figures of the so-called silver age of alpinism, making first ascents of the few significant peaks in the Alps that had not been climbed during the golden age of alpinism. On many of these climbs he was accompanied by his aunt, Meta Brevoort, and a pet dog, Tschingel, given to him by one of his guides, Christian Almer.
In 1885 he moved to Grindelwald, Switzerland, where he died in 1926.
First ascents in the AlpsEdit
- Piz Badile, 27 July 1867, with François Devouassoud and Henri Devouassoud
- Ailefroide, 7 July 1870, with Christian Almer and Ulrich Almer
- Central peak of La Meije, 1870, with Meta Brevoort and three guides
- Unterbächhorn, 1872
- First winter ascent of the Jungfrau, January 1874, with Christian and Ulrich Almer
- West summit of Les Droites, 16 July 1876, with Christian and Ulrich Almer
- Pic Coolidge, July 1877 with Christian and Ulrich Almer
- Les Bans, 14 July 1878, with Christian and Ulrich Almer
- Southern Peak of the Aiguilles d'Arves, 22 July 1878, with Christian and Ulrich Almer
- Monte Matto, 14 July 1879, with Christian and Ulrich Almer
- Aiguille de Chambeyron, 1879, with Christian Almer.
- Scherbadung, 1886
- Chüebodenhorn, 1892
- Robin Collomb, Bregaglia West, Goring: West Col Productions, 1988
- "Review of Swiss Travel and Swiss Guide-Books by W. A. B. Coolidge". The English Historical Review. 4: 809–810. October 1889.
- "Review of Alpine Studies by W. A. B. Coolidge". The Alpine Journal. 27: 241–242. 1913.
- Ronald W. Clark: An Eccentric in the Alps: The story of W. A. B. Coolidge, the Great Victorian Mountaineer. Museum Press, London 1959