Charles Downing (pomologist)

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Charles Downing

Charles Downing (July 9, 1802 – January 18, 1885), was an American pomologist, horticulturist, and author.

Although not as well known to the public as his brother Andrew Jackson Downing, Charles established a sound reputation for his creative work in pomology. Born in Newburgh, New York, his taste for horticultural pursuits was early stimulated by close contact with a nursery owned by his father, Samuel Downing. Even while attending an academy in the neighborhood he worked a portion of the time in this nursery. Upon the death of his father in 1822, he succeeded to the entire charge of the establishment. His younger brother, Andrew, was admitted to a partnership in 1834, an arrangement which lasted until 1839, when Charles sold his interest and embarked in the same business elsewhere.

About 1850 he discontinued his commercial nursery and henceforward until the end of his career devoted himself to extensive experiments with varieties of fruits. His research activities had much to do with placing nursery gardening on a scientific basis. The test orchard which he developed contained trees and grafts of 1,800 varieties of apples, 1,000 of pears, and other fruits in similar numbers. He had assisted his brother in the preparation of The Fruits and Fruit Trees of America (1845). Following his brother's death, Charles Downing reissued the book in multiple editions, adding new material that he provided, until the volume was twice as large in content as when it first appeared. Andrew had made the book the best publication of the kind in the United States; Charles by his additions and revisions made it well-known abroad. He also wrote many articles upon horticultural subjects under the initials "C. D." His work throughout was conscientious and accurate, and he was internationally recognized as an authority upon pomology, horticulture, and tree growths. Quiet, modest, and retiring, although an active member of horticultural societies, he would never make a public speech.

While in New York City in 1883, Downing was knocked down and run over by a horsecar. He never completely recovered from the injuries he received and died two years later. His wife was Mary Wait, daughter of Samuel Wait of Montgomery, New York.

Downing bequeathed his library of books and manuscripts to the Iowa Agricultural College Horticulture Department. His drawings and descriptions of apples and other fruits became a major source for the fruit sections of the 1903 American Horticultural Manual.[1]



  1. ^ J.L. Budd, N.E. Hansen (1903). American Horticultural Manual. Part II. Systematic Pomology. J. Wiley & Sons.  546 pp.


  • "Charles Downing", Dictionary of American Biography. American Council of Learned Societies, 1928–1936.