He was born in Indianapolis, Indiana (USA) on 14 May 1923. In middle school he became interested in natural sciences, particularly botany. He attended Butler University from 1940 to 1943. During World War II he was trained as an interpreter at the University of Nebraska and sent to the front lines in Normandy and Alsace-Lorraine. While on a patrol, he was severely wounded and held in captivity until the end of the war. After a several-month recovery in US hospitals, he returned to Butler University and then attended graduate school at Michigan State University where he received his PhD in Botany.
Reimer is best known outside of North America as the co-author (with Ruth Patrick) of one of the most influential diatom monographs of the 20th century The Diatoms of the United States. He was also the Curator of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia (ANSP) Diatom Herbarium for almost 50 years, and the beloved teacher of most diatomists of the United States.
Reimer worked at the ANSP since 1952. First, as Assistant Curator in the Department of Limnology, he participated in many water-quality monitoring projects and studied taxonomy of several diatom groups, especially monoraphids and cymbelloid diatoms. In 1960 he became the Curator of the Diatom Herbarium, which he maintained in meticulous order for several decades. Despite being an internationally recognized authority in diatom taxonomy, Reimer always remained a very humble person. He did not hold many titles; his office door had only a tiny inscription. But many visitors from all over the world knew that behind this door they would receive a warm welcome and enthusiastic help in their diatom studies.
Charlie Reimer will be remembered fondly by many colleagues as a passionate scholar of diatoms and an inspiring mentor. We will sorely miss his charm, gentle humor, and kind demeanor.
He died on 29 November 2008, aged 85.
Charles W. Reimer (1923-2008), The Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia.