Ridgeway was born at Ballydermot, King's County, Ireland, the son of Rev. John Henry Ridgeway and Marianne Ridgeway. He was a direct descendant of one of Cromwell's settlers in Ireland. He was educated at Portarlington School and Trinity College, Dublin, after which he studied at Peterhouse, Cambridge then Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, completing the Classical tripos there in 1880.
In 1883, Ridgeway was elected Professor of Greek at Queen's College, Cork, then Disney Professor of Archaeology at Cambridge in 1892. He also held tenure as Gifford lecturer in Religion at Aberdeen University from 1909 to 1911 from which was published The Evolution of Religions of Ancient Greece and Rome.
He contributed articles to the Encyclopedia Biblica (1903), Encyclopædia Britannica (1911) and wrote The Origin of Metallic Currency and Weight Standards (1892), and The Early Age of Greece (1901) which were significant works in Archaeology and Anthropology.
Ridgeway was President of the Royal Anthropological Institute 1908-1910 and was instrumental in the foundation of the Cambridge school of Anthropology.
Ridgeway received an honorary Doctorate of Letters (D.Litt.) from the University of Dublin in June 1902. He was elected a Fellow of the British Association in 1904. For his research on horses he received in 1909 the Sc.D. of Cambridge. He was knighted in the 1919 Birthday Honours list.
- The Greek trade-routes to Britain. 1899.
- The date of the first shaping of the Cuchulainn saga. 1905.
- Who were the Romans?. 1907.
- Minos the destroyer rather than the creator of the so-called 'Minoan' culture of Cnossus. 1910.
- Origin of metallic currency and weight standards. 1892.
- The early age of Greece. vol. 1. 1901.
- The origin and influence of the thoroughbred horse. 1905.
- The origin of tragedy, with special reference to the Greek tragedians. 1910.
- The dramas and dramatic dances of non-European races, in special reference to the origin of Greek drama. 1915.
- "Obituary: Sir William Ridgeway – A Scholar of Wide Range". The Times. The Times Digital Archive. 13 August 1926. p. 12.
- "Ridgeway, William (RGWY877W)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
- "William Ridgeway". The Gifford Lectures.
- "Ridgeway, William". Who's Who: 2079. 1919.
- "University intelligence". The Times (36783). London. 2 June 1902. p. 9.
- Haddon, A. C. (21 August 1926). "Obituary. Sir William Ridgeway". Nature. 118: 275–276. doi:10.1038/118275a0.
- "No. 13440". The Edinburgh Gazette. 2 May 1919. p. 1592.
- Lucy Marion Ridgeway Venn at Find a Grave
- Myres, J. L., William Ridgeway, and John L. Myres (1902). ""Ridgeway's Early Age of Greece."". The Classical Review. 16: 68–94.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link) (The article consists of Myres's book review on pp. 68–77, a reply by Ridgeway on pp. 78–91, and a rejoinder by Myres on pp. 91–94.)
- "Review of The Origin and Influence of the Thoroughbred Horse by William Ridgeway". The Athenaeum (4088): 255–256. 3 March 1906.
- Works written by or about William Ridgeway at Wikisource
- Ridgeway's correspondence and papers at NAHSTE
- 'William Ridgeway's Two Models of Early Greece', Simon J. Cook, History of European Ideas, 2014
George Forrest Browne
| Disney Professor of Archaeology, Cambridge University
1892 - 1926
Sir Ellis Minns