Lignier, Élie Antoine Octave

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Lignier, Élie Antoine Octave

(b. Pougy, Aube, France, 25 February 1855; d. Paris, France, 19 March 1916)


His father, who was probably a farmer, is described on Octave’s birth certificate as a landowner. Nothing is known of the botanist’s primary and secondary schooling. He obtained his bachelor of arts degree in Paris in 1873, and a baccalaureate in science at Lille in 1880.

As teaching assistant in the Faculte des Sciences at Lille, he worked under the direction of the paleo-botanist Charles Eugene Bertrand and helped to organize the Botanical Teaching and Research Laboratory. He subsequently helped to reorganize the Botanical Gardens, which had been moved from Lille to La Lou Were. At the same time, he was working toward his licentiate, which he was awarded in 1882, having studied under the geologist Gosselet and the zoologist Giard, as well as Bertrand. In 1887 he received his doctorate in natural sciences from the University of Paris. In the same year he was appointed assistant lecturer in the Faculte des Sciences at Caen, where in 1889 he was made full professor.

When he first arrived in Caen, the town h compile a catalog, which he published with B. Le Bey, and later with Jvl. Lortet. Through sheer persistence he succeeded in having a botanical institute built. His teaching covered all aspects of botany, including paleobotany. He published some 110 writings of his own and coauthored others. His work encompassed both existing and fossil plants.

His anatomical research was directed particularly at the floral organs, seeds, and fruit of the Myrtaceae, Oenothera, Cruciferae, and Fumariaceae, and at the vascular bundles of the stems and leaves of many families, but only part of his research was ever published. He regarded the Gnetales as angiosperms.

He published some remarkable studies of the Bennett’tales of Normandy. He was wrong, though, in believing the Benneitites morierei to be partheno-genetic, which he inferred from the closed micro-pyles that he had found in them, and he assumed that the loss of sexual reproduction was responsible for the disappearance of progeny.

He was also interested in Paleozoic materials, specifically the Radiculites reticufatus, which he first placed in the Taxodiaceae and then assigned to the Paroxybn, close to the Cordaites. Finally, he described for the first time with rare precision fossil woods that came from Normandy.

But what attracted the attention of the world’s leading paleobotanists were Lignier’s theories on evolution and proposed classifications. Among his theories were the cauloid concept, involving an undifferentiated fundamental element with dichotomous ramification, which underlies the theory of the present telome, and the meriphyte concept, which attributes such great importance to the fibrovascular system of the leaf in phanerogams.

He contributed greatly to our understanding of the group of Articuleae, a name which he invented to cover various genera. He became interested also in the Stauropterb because of their relevance to theory.

Concerning the hypotheses advanced by E. A. N. Arber and J. Parkin on the Euanihostrobiles and the Proanthostrobiles to explain the origin of the angiosperms, Lignier was generally inclined to go along with them, although he did suggest some modifications. He disagreed in particular with the conclusions about the Bennettitales. Notwithstanding G. R. Wieland’s opinion, he regarded their fruiting as an inflorescence and not as a flower or part of a flower.


I. Original Works. For a listing of Ligonier’s writings, see Titers et travaux scientifiques de M. Octave Lignier (Laval, 1914).

II. Secondary Literture. For further information on Lignier’s work, see L. Emberger, Les planets fosst’les dans leurs rapports avec les végétaux vivant(Paris, 1968). pp. 157-158, 382, 651; C. Houard, and M. Lortet, “Rapport annul pour 1916 sur I’Institut botanique et tes collections botaniques de Caen,” in Bulletin de la Société lineenne de Norman die,6th ser.,9 (1919), 237; E. C. Jeffrey, “Octave Lignier,’ inthe Botanical Gazette,62 (1916), 507-508; D. H. Scott, Studies in Fossil Botany, I (London, 1920), 334-337, 413 ff.; II (1923),passim; and A. C. Seward,Fossil Plants (Cambridge, 2, 1910; 3, 1917;4, 1919).

F. Stockmans