Born in 1885, Conrad Kirouac is better known as Brother Marie-Victorin. This brother of the Christian Schools and avid botanist wrote "La Flore Laurentienne,” a book published in 1935 which is still considered a major reference on plant life in Québec.
A tireless botanist
Brother Marie-Victorin was in charge of the Botany Laboratory (which later became the Botanical Institute of the Université de Montréal), founded the French Canadian Association for the Advancement of Sciences in 1923 and became secretary general of the Canadian Society of Natural History in 1925.
His plea to Mayor Camillien Houde in 1935 for the creation of a botanical garden went down in Montréal’s history:
“We will soon be celebrating Montréal's three hundredth anniversary. You need to give a gift, a royal gift, to the City, our city. But Montréal is Ville-Marie, a woman... And you certainly can't give her a storm sewer or a police station... It's obvious what you must do! Give her a corsage for her lapel. Fill her arms to overflowing with all the roses and lilies of the field!”
Sharing the knowledge of plants
In keeping with his teaching vocation, Brother Marie-Victorin made sure that the Garden had an educational and scientific mission. In 1938, the School of Horticultural Learning opened and garden plots for pupils were created. The next year, the School of Awakening, an innovative institution whose aim was to introduce young people to nature, opened in the Garden.
In 1943, Marie-Victorin developed a formal collaboration between the Garden and the Botanical Institute of the Université de Montréal, but the project was suspended in summer 1944 due to his accidental death. In his honour, the herbarium of the Botanical laboratory of the Université de Montréal will be named the Marie-Victorin Herbarium.