THE CANADIAN FRENCH-SPEAKING WORLD and some of the people who have contributed to its greatness



Brother Marie-Victorin (Conrad Kirouac)

Date of birth:
April 3, 1885

Place of birth:
Kingsley Falls


Religious, botanist and scientist


Photo : Archives des Frères des Écoles chrétiennes



















Conrad Kirouac was the son of Philomène Luneau and Cyrille Kirouac. His father was a prosperous merchant in Quebec City. Conrad's primary schooling was in the Saint-Sauveur neighbourhood of Quebec City and he entered the Académie commerciale de Québec to comply with his father's wishes. After brilliant studies,he decided, much to his father's dismay, to join the Christian Brothers of Mont-Lasalle de Maisonneuve where he took the name of Brother Marie-Victorin. He was gifted for teaching and planned to teach. His superiors in the community made him take a number of rests in the countryside because of the precarious state of his health and there he discovered a passion for nature.

In 1904, he taught French Composition, Algebra, Geometry and Botany at the Collège de Longueil. He spent his free time studying the Laurentian flora, a subject he dealt with in his first writings. He made scientific contacts abroad that brought him out of his isolation. He was invited to teach Botany at the Fondation de la faculté des sciences of the Université de Montréal in 1920. For a number of years, he shared his working hours between the Collège de Longueuil and the Université de Montréal. He was torn between his desire to continue teaching young people and moving forward with his scientific career; in 1923 he co-founded and became the first Secretary of the Association canadienne française pour l'avancement des sciences (ACFAS). Subsequently, he set up the Société canadienne d'histoire naturelle. With the fouonding of the Institut de botanique, he began to make an inventory of Quebec flora. This colossal work led to the publication of his masterwork in 1935, La flore laurentienne. This literary and scientific work is used in universities as a reference tool. His work brought him the recognition of numerous institutions, both in Canada and abroad. He attended numerous scientific congresses abroad. In 1929, he campaigned for a botanical garden in Montreal. In 1936, his hopes for the Montreal Botanical Garden were realized. He went on to found the Cercle des jeunes naturalistes, which allowed thousands of young Quebeckers to be introduced to the natural sciences. He also participated in reorganizing the teaching of geology in Quebec, througoh the creation of a geological institute.

Brother Marie-Victorin was responsible for a renewal of scientific culture in Quebec and, thanks to him, its scientific movement has been recognized abroad. At the height of his powers, on the threshold of his sixtieth year, he died on July 15,1944, from a car accident. He was coming back from a plant collecting trip where he had just discovered and collected a new variety of heather. A number of plants in Quebec, Spain and Cuba have been named after him.