Charles (also Karl) Lendi was born in Paris in 1825, although his family originated in Walenstadt in the Swiss canton of St Gallen. Upon the revolution in France in 1830, they moved back to Switzerland.
At the age of seventeen, Charles Lendi became a soldier. But, after a decade of distinguished service and as telegraphy arrived in Switzerland, he saw an ideal opportunity to pursue his lively interest in new technologies. In 1852 he joined the Swiss telegraphic service and soon obtained a first-class qualification as a telegraphist. Three years later he was acting as secretary to Karl Brunner von Wattenwyl, then director of the national service, and accompanied him on missions to France, Belgium, Prussia, and Austria-Hungary.
Next, Lendi took over from Louis Curchod as inspector of Lausanne’s telegraphic system. And by 1864, he had risen to become Deputy Director of Switzerland’s Federal Administration of Telegraphs. In 1869, he was named Director, again following in the footsteps of Curchod.
In May 1872 Lendi quit his role in the Swiss administration and, once more, took up a position that Curchod had vacated: Director of the ITU Bureau. The year before, at the 1871 International Telegraph Conference in Rome, Lendi had already represented both Switzerland and ITU, though not yet appointed director of the Bureau. Sickness confined him to bed throughout the event. Nevertheless, he was able to conclude arrangements that reduced communication tariffs between Switzerland and neighbouring countries.
Shortly after the Rome conference, Lendi was formally installed as Director of the ITU Bureau in Berne. Tragically, however, his tenure was brief. After less than a year, in January 1873 Lendi became a victim of the deadly disease anthrax, and died at the age of just forty-seven.