Charles Antoine Lemaire was born in Paris on November 1, 1800, the son of Antoine Charles Lemaire and Marie Jeanne Davio. His early education was comprehensive, and he was known to be an excellent student. He attended the University of Paris and, after the completion of his studies, he
achieved the position of Professor of Classical Literature at the University. At some point in his academic career, he developed an interest in botany; his close friendship with M. Neumann, the chief horticulturist at the Museum of Natural History was very important in what became a radical change in his life work.
Lemaire began his scientific career by assisting M. Mathieu, a nurseryman in Paris, in creating a collection of cacti, and it was this family to which most of his subsequent work was devoted. In 1835, a publisher in Paris, M. Cousin, started a horticultural journal and asked Lemaire to be its editor. For many years, he edited Jardin Fleuriste and L’Horticulteur Universel, and wrote most of their contents himself. In 1845, he was invited to move to Ghent, in Belgium, to be the editor of a journal, Flore des Serres et des Jardins de l’Europe, newly established by Louis van Houtte. Nine years later, still at Ghent, he became the editor of L’Illustration Horticole, founded by Ambroise Verschaffelt, and held that position for sixteen years. He returned to Paris in 1870 and died there in June 1871.
In addition to the vast amount of his own writing, which is to be found in the journals edited by Lemaire, he published small works on the Cactaceae and on other succulent plants. Examples of these are Cactearum aliquot novarum (1838); Cactearum genera nova speciesque novae (1839); Iconographie descriptive des Cactées (1841-1847); Les plantes grasses (1869). Lemaire’s plans for a major book on the Cactaceae were never realized even though he had collected much of the material for it. He lived in poor circumstances for most of his life and never acquired the reputation that might have brought him a wealthy patron. Edouard Andre, his successor as editor of L’Illustration Horticole, wrote of him, “Posterity will esteem M. Lemaire more highly than did his contemporaries.”
Edouard Andre. “Charles Lemaire”. L’Illustration Horticole. vol. 18, pp. 120-121. 1871. Also in The Gardeners’ Chronicle. p. 870. 1871.
Charles J. E. Morren. “Charles Lemaire”. La Belgique Horticole. vol. 21, pp. 198-199. 1871.
Karl M. Schumann. “Lebensbeschreibungen berühmter Kakteenkenner. II. Charles Antoine Lemaire.” Monatschrift für Kakteenkunde. vol. 8, pp. 49-52. 1898.
W. L. Tjaden. “Charles Lemaire (1800-1871) and the Genus Schlumbergera.” The Cactus and Succulent Journal of Great Britain. vol. 31, pp. 29-31. 1969.
Robert F. Erickson