MACGILLIVRAY, WILLIAM (1796–1852), Scottish naturalist, was born at Aberdeen on the 25th of January 1796. At King’s College, Aberdeen, he graduated in 1815, and also studied medicine, but did not complete the latter course. In 1823 he became assistant to R. Jameson, professor of natural history in Edinburgh University; and in 1831 he was appointed curator of the museum of the Royal College of Surgeons in Edinburgh, a post which he resigned in 1841 to become professor of natural history and lecturer on botany in Marischal College, Aberdeen. He died at Aberdeen on the 4th of September 1852. He possessed a wide and comprehensive knowledge of natural science, gained no less from personal observations in different parts of Scotland than from a study of collections and books. His industry and extensive knowledge are amply shown in his published works. He assisted J. J. Audubon in his classical works on the Birds of America, and edited W. Withering’s British Plants. His larger works include biographies of A. von Humboldt, and of zoologists from Aristotle to Linnaeus, a History of British Quadrupeds, a History of the Molluscous Animals of Aberdeen, Banff and Kincardine, a Manual of British Ornithology, and a History of British Birds, in 5 vols. (1837–1852). The last work holds a high rank from the excellent descriptions of the structure, habits and haunts of birds, and from the use in classification of characters afforded by their anatomical structure. His Natural History of Deeside, posthumously published by command of Queen Victoria, was the result of a sojourn in the highlands of Aberdeenshire in 1850. He made large collections, alike for the instruction of his students and to illustrate the zoology, botany and geology of the parts of Scotland examined by him, especially around Aberdeen, and a number of his original water-colour drawings are preserved in the British Museum (Natural History).
His eldest son, John Macgillivray (1822–1867), published an account of the voyage round the world of H.M.S. “Rattlesnake,” on board of which he was naturalist. Another son, Paul, published an Aberdeen Flora in 1853.