Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Vigors, Nicholas Aylward

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VIGORS, NICHOLAS AYLWARD (1785–1840), zoologist, born at Old Leighlin in 1785, was son of Nicholas Aylward Vigors (1755–1828) of Old Leighlin and Bellmount, co. Carlow, by his first wife, Catharine, daughter of Solomon Richards of Solsborough, Wexford. He matriculated from Trinity College, Oxford, on 16 Nov. 1803, and on 14 Nov. 1806 he was admitted a student of Lincoln's Inn. He left Oxford without taking a degree towards the close of 1809, and purchased an ensigncy in the grenadier guards. Of the diligence, however, with which he had pursued his classical and literary studies there is proof in his publication of ‘An Enquiry into the Nature and Extent of Poetick Licence’ (London, 1810, 8vo; 2nd ed. 1813).

He served with his regiment in the Peninsular war, and was severely wounded in the action at Barrosa, 5 March 1811. On his return the same year to England he quitted the army and resumed his studies at Oxford, graduating B.A. in 1817 and M.A. in 1818. He was created an honorary D.C.L. on 4 July 1832.

Vigors also devoted himself to the study of zoology, especially birds and insects, forming extensive collections. These in 1826, on the formation of the Zoological Society, which he assisted in establishing, he presented to that body. He was the first secretary of the society, and held the office till 1833. He had been elected a fellow of the Linnean Society in 1819, and contributed to their ‘Transactions’ an important paper ‘On the Natural Affinities that connect the Orders and Families of Birds,’ in which he sought to apply the quinary arrangement to the class Aves. He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society on 23 Feb. 1826, and was also a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries and of the Geological and Historical societies, as well as a member of the Royal Irish Academy and the Royal Institution.

On the death of his father in 1828 he succeeded to the family estate, and shortly after entered on his parliamentary career. On 15 Dec. 1832 he was returned for the town of Carlow. In 1835 he was defeated, but, a vacancy occurring for the county of Carlow, Vigors was returned, but was unseated on petition. On 18 Feb. 1837 he was again returned for the county, of which he was also deputy lieutenant, and continued to represent it till his death. He was an advanced liberal, and but rarely spoke.

He died unmarried at his house in Chester Terrace, Regent's Park, London, on 26 Oct. 1840, and was buried in the nave of the cathedral at Old Leighlin.

Vigors was author of some forty papers, mostly on ornithological subjects, that appeared in various scientific journals between 1825 and 1836, six being written in conjunction with others. He assisted Sir William Jardine [q. v.] and Prideaux John Selby [q. v.] in their ‘Illustrations of Ornithology’ (1825–39), and wrote the section ‘Ornithology’ for the ‘Zoology of Captain Beechey's Voyage’ (1839). He also, with Bell and others, edited vols. iii. and iv. of the ‘Zoological Journal’ (1828–35).

[Gent. Mag. 1840, ii. 659; Proc. Linn. Soc. London, i. 106; Burke's Landed Gentry; Brit. Mus. Cat.; Roy. Soc. Cat.]

B. B. W.