Philip Baker, second child and first son of Ellen Eley Baker and
William Baker, was born at Condover, Shropshire (Salop), England,
February 3, 1866. His mother came from Derbyshire near Derby;
father from Stroud across the Medway River from Rochester, Kent.
the Baker lineage in England began with refugee Huguenots from
France. Because of continued religious persecution these
Protestants left France in waves, settling in the Canterbury, Kent
area. Most of them were skilled weavers. In 1543
VIIIth, then endorsing Protestantism (Act of Supremacy) granted one
group sanctuary in England, giving them the privilege of worship in a
small crypt of Canterbury Cathedral, called St. Gabrielle's in the
Crypt. According to Frances E. Baker (R.P.B.'s daughter) who
quoted from the Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th ed. V:211.
"The Chapel of St. John or St. Gabrielle, beneath St. Anselm's Tower,
is still in use for service, in which the French language is
used. It was devoted to this purpose in 1561, on behalf of
Protestant refugees, who were also permitted to carry on their trade as
weavers in the crypt." Frances visited there in 1954 noting
practice persisted. Later there was a weavers house.
family by the name of Nye (pronounced Ney), a Huguenot weaving family,
arrived in England as immigrants in 1588. Names of the Nye
appear in the St. Gabrielle records. The Nyes settled in the
Canterbury area. A Madame Nye of Canterbury, for whom dates
unknown, was the progenitor of the Baker family.
Frances and Gladys were visiting Wilfred Wright, R.P.B.'s first cousin,
in 1928, he showed us a small water color of a lady he thought was
Madame Nye. The lady had dark eyes, dark hair in ringlets and
dressed in simple style. The fate of this portrait is
unknown. Early in W.W.II Wilfred and his wife cleared their
London home and put their goods in storage because of the bombing
raids. They then retreated to their home in Surrey.
Unfortunately the warehouse with their goods was destroyed in the
Blitz. If Wilfred removed the portrait to Surrey it probably
now with one of his two daughters or their descendants.
daughter of Madame Nye, name unknown, married a Goodwin of Maidstone,
Kent in 1790. Their son Thomas Goodwin married Mary Hall,
Maidstone, circa 1810. A daughter of this union, Mary
1806-1876, and Richard Baker of Eden Bridge, Kent were united circa
1829 when they eloped to be married in St. Marylebone Parish Church,
London. They lived in Stroud, Kent across the Medway River
Rochester. Here they raised four children: William,
R.P.B.'s father; Josiah, 1832-1850; Anne, a.k.a. Annie, 1835-1916 (?);
and Mary a.k.a. Polly, 1842-1894. In the churchyard at Stroud
there is a tombstone with the names of Josiah, William, their mother
Mary and sister Mary. Mary Goodwin Baker's name appears
once as mother of Josiah and William, and again as wife of Richard; and
Mary, sister of Josiah and William, 1842-1894. F. and G. saw
marker in 1928 and G. photographed it.
a.k.a. Polly did not marry although she was engaged to a young man,
who, returning from a business trip in Paris, overslept on the Channel
ferry. He rushed off in his carpet slippers whereupon Polly
had gone to meet him at Dover, returned his ring on the spot she was so
offended. Uncle Will's wife remarked on hearing this story,
a lucky escape he had."
married Peter Wright, from the Isle of Aram off the coast of
Scotland. He was a wealthy brewer. The Wright
Chestnuts", was in Clapton, a London suburb. It overlooked
River Lea. Aunt Mary took Frances and Gladys there in
Now part of a public park, Springhill, she could identify a shrubbery
walk and some chestnut trees from the Wright home.
Wrights had one son, Wilfred, who was R.P.B.'s first cousin.
Wilfred married May Hetherington of Birmingham. They had
children: Dora Jean Temple; John Muir Hetherington; and Elizabeth Avril
Goodwin. Muir went to Burma to be a rubber planter.
killed during the Japanese invasion of W.W.II. Avril was a silver
medalist at the London Conservatory of Music. During W.W.II
and others, including Dame Myra Hess, played free concerts during the
day. People could come and go giving them a respite from the
stress of the war.
Mary L. told us a story about Muir as a small boy. A visitor
asked him what he wanted to do when he was grown up. Muir's
answer was quick and to the point: "Get married and write checks like
Philip's grandfather, also Richard, served as Beadle in
For forty years or more he was secretary of the Kent County Cricket
Club. When he retired the Club presented him with a handsome
silver inkstand. Wilfred Wright, his grandson, inherited
this. Wilfred asked Frances and Gladys if R.P.B., or Dick as
called him, liked it. He had sent it to him by Aunt Mary L.
when she came to U.S. in 1922. Since neither one of us had
heard of it we were a bit embarrassed. We believe Aunt Mary
gave it to Dick Baker, R.P.B.'s nephew instead of R.P.B. Its present
whereabouts is unknown. (It was given to nephew, Richard
Baker, and is now in the possession of his son, John.)
father, William Baker, 1830-1874, was born in Stroud, Kent on the
Medway River. Stroud is across the river from
After elementary school he was largely self taught. He became
professional organist. His mother was said to be an
musician. William settled in Shrewsbury, Shropshire where he
organist at St. Mary's Church. In poor health he was advised
accept a less confining position, so he became "Relieving Officer of
the Poor" for Atcham Union, Shropshire. It involved driving
horse and buggy over the shire to call on recipients. This
position was probably similar to that of a modern social worker.
early life William had displayed some talent for painting. At
(1848) he produced an oil painting of a view across the Medway River
with a distant view of Rochester Cathedral and the Castle in the
foreground. At that time the Cathedral had a spire which the
Germans razed in a bombing raid in W.W.I. Later it was
Aunt Mary L. gave this painting to Gladys when she came on a visit in
1923. In 1984 she in turn gave it to Richard Goodwin Baker,
first cousin and R. P. B.'s nephew.
William resigned as organist of St. Mary's Church he moved with his
first wife and daughter, Ann Goodwin Baker, to nearby
There his wife died of tuberculosis. She and an infant son
buried in St. Andrews Churchyard, Condover where there is a marker with
1863 William married Ellen Eley from Derbyshire who was teaching at the
Abbey School, Shrewsbury. They had four children: Mary
Richard Philip, Ellen Stanford, and William. William senior
in 1874 at his sister Anne Baker Wright's home, "The Chestnuts", in
London. The cause of death was an aortal aneurysm not angina,
misdiagnosis made earlier. William is buried in Abney Park
Baker, nee Eley, was born at the family home, "The Hurst", in Smalley
near Derby, Derbyshire, in 1827. The Eleys had been freehold
farmers there for over 300 years. R.P.B. said he could trace
family back that far on tombstones in the churchyard, and undoubtedly
the church records went back even farther. Derby is the
of porcelain potteries. The most famous began as Derby
then changed its name to Chelsea Derby in 1770, and finally under royal
patronage became the well known Royal Crown Derby. Ellen
had some Derby porcelain. Mary L. Baker brought over two
from the Baker home in 1922. Gladys added a bowl, and cup and
saucer purchased in antique shops. These were all in a Bloor
pattern of 1820. Bloor was a famous designer for this
porcelain. When a pattern is successful the pottery continues
make it for some time making the age of these pieces difficult to
determine, especially as there is no hall mark on the Eley
plates. All of these belong to the John Bakers now.
Ellen was five years old (1832) her father held her on his shoulders to
see the first train in England; this she remembered clearly.
later attended Whitelands, the Government Teachers' Training School for
secondary teaching. It was a five year program with five
the first class which she ranked at graduation. Whitelands is
part of London University. In Shrewsbury she is remembered by
plaque as the first "Certificated Teacher" there, according to Mary L.
Baker. From 1851 to 1863 she taught at the Abbey
The Abbey, long gone, is known today through Ellis Peters' stories of
Brother Cadfael who had detective prowess in the 12th Century.
also had potteries whose products were called Salopian. Aunt
Ellen S. Baker gave Gladys one small vase which she gave to Mary Baker
Hess in 1970. (Passed on to her son and daughter in-law, Charles and
Wilma, circa 1982.) It was a blank - plain white - to be
decorated elsewhere, a common practice among potteries. Many
blanks were sent to China.
her husband died Ellen Eley Baker closed the small school for farmers'
daughters she held in a room of the Condover house and moved her family
to Shrewsbury where she taught in the Darwin Elementary School from
1876-1892. In Shrewsbury the family lived in a house called
Mount" which was on the Severn River. One year the directors
the Darwin School decided that boys as well as girls should be taught
to knit and sew, much to her dismay as R. P. B. recalled.
this had been in practice for some time she concluded that some boys
did well, others did not, just as girls performed. Her son
William recalled that she taught him speed reading by writing on a
window shade, then snapping it up to test his memory. After
retiring she moved to Barnwood, near Gloucester, to live with her
daughters. She is buried in Barnwood Cemetery.
Eley's sister Alice married Sir Joseph Middleton of Derbyshire who
owned coal fields near Leeds. Alice died leaving four little
girls who were given to her sisters to raise. Mary Middleton
about eight when she came to live with Ellen Eley. They lived
the Abbey Teacherage until Ellen married in 1863, then at
Condover. In 1867 (circa age 22) she married Francis Goyne of
Shrewsbury. He was a well known insurance broker and CPA with
international connections. R.P.B. was always impressed that
cable address was simply "Goyne, England" because the name was so
unusual. Aunt Mary L. remembered the wedding and watching the
young couple drive away in a coach and four.
young Goynes set up housekeeping at 7 Dogpole Street in
Shrewsbury. Dogpole is a corruption of "ducking
the small square opposite the house there had been a pool in which the
village shrews and others were ducked. This old house was the
first one in the parish of St. Alkmund. Its church was not
from the larger church of St. Mary's where William Baker had once been
1928 Mary M. Goyne was still living there with her daughter May Goyne
Pryce and granddaughter Dorothy when Frances and Gladys visited
them. Dorothy, about the same age as Frances, showed us over
house. It had six rooms in two to a floor. The
casements with small leaded panes fastened with wrought iron
hooks. They did not fit very well! Back of the
three sculleries, the oldest of which had a lead sink with the date
1619. There was no electricity; we used candles or
Aunt Mary L. told a story of visiting there when Dorothy was 10 or
11. Her mother wanted something from her bedroom to show Aunt
Mary so Dorothy was requested to take a candle and fetch it.
Dorothy grumbled "It's Dorothy, Dorothy all day long." Aunt Mary
seeking to soothe said, "in my business it's Miss Baker all day
long." Dorothy's rejoinder was "Yes, but you are coming to
end of it and I am just beginning."
was a story about Mary M. as a small child that I have always taken
"Cum grano salis". Apparently she stood too close to a
so her pinafore caught fire. One of her ears burned, but
eventually it was replaced by new tissue.
Middleton, Mary's father owned the Middleton Colliery near Leeds in the
Peverill of the Peak region. One of his employees, John
Blenkinsop, invented the rack railway in which a toothed rack is
engaged by a cog-wheel in 1811. An engine built according to
plan by Mathew Murray, also of Leeds, began to haul coal from the
Colliery to Leeds (1812) a distance of 3 1/2 miles. Fifty
later an American, Sylvester Marsh, employed this rack system for the
cog railway on Mt. Washington, New Hampshire. The
there was nearly 1 in 2 1/2. (See: Ency. Brit. ed 11, 22:
was always impressed that Joseph Middleton encouraged Blenkinsop to
patent this invention in his own name. Most owners would have
taken the credit for themselves. Besides being the basis for
Mt. Washington cog-wheel railway it is also the basis of the
Francisco cable car.
Nellie told Frances that the traditional friendships and intermarriages
were among four Derbyshire families: Eleys, Middletons, Stevensons and
Stanfords. Aunt Nellie's middle name was Stanford.
said there had always been a Joseph Middleton, I have always thought it
strange that there were no stories about these families, especially the
and Ellen Eley Baker had four children, all born in Condover two years
apart. Mary Louisa Baker, 1864-1954, was the
was educated in local schools of Condover and Shrewsbury with further
training under the guidance of Frank Goyne. In order to help
family financially she went to work in a bank when she was
fourteen. She seems to have been exceptionally gifted with
monetary work. In those days everything was guineas, pounds,
shillings and pence. Later she became a book keeper for
and Holbrook in Shrewsbury, then moved to their Gloucester store where
she was eventually head buyer for cloaks and mantles. She
in nearby Barnwood. She told us she always kept a bag packed
case she had to leave for London on a buying trip
She had friends in London who kept her apprised of the imminent death
of Queen Victoria. She immediately went to London where she
purchased everything needed in black for the official
This was quite a scoop for she was ahead of inflated prices and
Mary L. visited United States twice: 1913 and 1922-1926. She
not find the Midwest climate agreeable so returned to
one time she planned to be married but her fiancee expected her to keep
on working and contribute to the household. This did not suit
so she broke the engagement! Thinking she was to be married
had purchased a copy of Mrs. Beeton's "Household Management".
was a first edition but far from a first printing. She gave
book to the Richard Philip Baker family. Later Gladys B. gave
to the John Bakers. When she and Frances wanted to amuse
themselves they used to read it for instructions on the duties of the
butler, footmen, valet, lady's maid and directions for polishing the
silver, brass, and kitchen stove. The recipes were of the ilk
"Take a dozen eggs, a pound of butter" etc. R.P.B. told us
Aunt Mary L. had invested heavily in Japanese bonds, as did many
British. These were a great loss after W.W.I.
her final years when she could no longer live alone she stayed with a
trained nurse and her family. She had her own room and
bath. The family had a little girl of about 10 who was
fond of Aunt Mary, always came to see her directly when she returned
from school to visit and sometimes for help with her
Until the last she kept her financial acuity. Her last week
instructed her broker to buy a certain stock. At her death
value had increased sufficiently to pay her funeral expenses.
When Frances and Gladys took a summer tour to Europe in 1928 they left
the tour when it reached England. Aunt Mary took
was an excellent guide.
Baker home in Condover was a half-timbered Tudor house.
mother made a wool worked representation of the house which Aunt Mary
gave to Frances. It now belongs to the John Bakers.
also gave us a very old pair of brass candlesticks, Georgian, from the
Eley family (now with Michael Baker)* and Ellen Eley's small, round
brass alarm clock. It wound by a key; for years it did not
then someone suggested the clock maker in Old Amana, Iowa. He
kept it running for years. Aunt Mary L. said this clock was
Eley's bedside clock all the years she was teaching.
Stanford Baker, 1868 to 1950, a.k.a. Nellie, was born in
Condover. She, too, was the product of Condover and
schools. She was primarily the home maker for her family,
to Barnwood with her mother when the latter retired. They
there with Mary L. Nellie was a natural nurse with some
training. When Ellen Eley died, she came to the*(This pair,
of two that came over with R.P.B. & William, is with the
Hess family.) United States, making her headquarters with William
Baker, rector of
the Episcopal Church in Bloomington, Illinois. From 1909 to
she was a staff nurse at Waukesha Springs Sanitarium,
For years she was sole attendant for Mrs. Fanny Altheimer, nee Mandel
of the Chicago Mandels Store, who was schizophrenic. She had
real knack with these patients. Once when cornered in a
office by a patient out of control brandishing a knife, she said
"Madam, did you know your petticoat was showing?" This made
enough distraction so Aunt Nellie and the doctor seized
After retirement she joined Aunt Mary L. in Shrewsbury, England,
1929. The two Aunties had a charming modern cottage in the
country with bus service that gave them easy access to Shrewsbury for
shopping. As soon as W.W.II started, bus service was
because of expected petrol shortages. They had to move to
Shrewsbury, already overcrowded with government people whose offices
and records had been moved there from London on the assumption it would
be free from bombing raids. Unfortunately by then little
housing was available. They had only a very dreary old set of
rooms heated by fireplaces. Food was severely rationed and I
suspect coal also was. Frances and I sent as many food
we could but I am sure that not all of them reached their destination
as the submarine warfare was so active. After the war the two
Aunties stayed in Shrewsbury where they both subsequently died.
Nellie was the Baker relative we knew best for she often came to
visit. One year on the day before Christmas the doorbell rang
there stood Aunt Nellie! There was great excitement for this
the first (and only time) we had a relative with us at
It was on this visit that 929 Kirkwood (later 829) was dubbed "The old
Baker place". When Aunt Nellie gave the taxi driver the
that was his response, meaning it was an old house. Aunt
was very good to her two nieces, often sending unexpected and wonderful
gifts. One Easter there were two beautiful spring hats.
Baker was the youngest of the four Baker siblings. Strangely
was the only one without a middle name. He was born in
in 1870. His early education was in Shrewsbury schools
by five years at St. Denstone, a Public School, in Staffordshire
Singsingetjie, sing, sing, sing,
the song of the sun!
high where the blue and the pine-tops meet
sing, sing in the fragrant heat;
the golden hammers of noontide heat
shimmering veld and dusty street --
Singsingetjie, sing, sing, sing,
the song of the sun!
the long years underground,
the cold damp darkness all around,
the glory of sunshine found;
'till the klantzes and kloofs resound -
Singsingetjie, sing, sing, sing,
the song of the sun!
as under the Grecian blue
sang when the harp-string snapped, and few
all who acclaimed the harper knew,
missing notes were supplied by you.
Singsingetjie, sing, sing, sing,
the song of the sun!
harps have a broken string,
note that is lost is the note you bring -
note of joy for the common things,
sun in the sky, the bird on the wing -
and R.P.B. often visited the Baker grandparents as
The latter related this story to us. At the end. of the main
grandmother B. would ask her husband if he would have more.
reply never varied, "No, my dear, I have had ample and am well
fed." The two boys, between themselves, always called their
grandfather "Old ample".
four young Bakers were close friends and companions of their Goyne
cousins: May, Ethel, and Frank, Jr. Mr. Frank Goyne remained
friend and advisor. When Anne Goodwin Baker, their
left for Australia at age 17, Mr. Goyne accompanied her to the ship she
sailed on. He brought back word that she waved good-bye
tears. She never returned to England, settling in Melbourne
she trained as a nurse. Later she owned her own nursing home
(hospital), expropriated by the government in W.W. I.
R.P.B. emigrated to United States in 1888 Will accompanied
They spent their first winter in New Orleans living with Alfred Baker
who was always called "Uncle". If so, he must have been
through a brother of Grandfather Richard. The only photograph
had of him showed him in a uniform of the Confederate army.
R.P.B. sent him a wedding announcement it was returned marked "Address
Unknown." I believe he was a banker with two
Uncle Alfred remains a mystery. Other Baker cousins do
also. R. P. B. told Frances of visiting a Baker cousin (sic)
was Canon Praecentor at Durham Cathedral in charge of training the
choirs. Another cousin was a fine silversmith.
New Orleans R.P.B. taught music and turned his hand at other available
employment. That first winter in New Orleans there was a big
storm early in January. So unprecedented was this that all
businesses closed and everyone played in the -snow! Sometime
1889 the brothers moved to Weatherford, Jack County, Texas.
R.P.B. taught music and secondary school. It greatly amused
to hear students chanting their spelling, e.g. "b-u-izzard-izzard
a-r-d-, buzzard". There is no record of what Will did;
he, too, taught school. Later he worked on railroads, usually
paymaster or supervisor of construction. He was known to be
at solving railway construction problems. R.P.B. said he made
signal contribution in solving the problems connected with the entry of
nine trunk lines at Union Station, St. Louis, Missouri before the 1904
World's Fair there. His solution - back the trains in
went unrewarded but in 1933 when Gladys first went to Washington
University in St. Louis the trains backed in.
story of Will and railroads concerned a burly Scotsman who, when asked
by the paymaster to "make his cross" before he was paid, was so
incensed he knocked the paymaster down saying "No-one asks Angus
_________, B.A. Edinburgh University, to make his mark". Many
years later when Uncle Will was filling in for a minister on vacation
from his parish in the upper peninsula of Michigan where logging was a
major industry he solved a railroad problem which he used to relate
with relish. The loggers used a narrow gauge track; an engine
jumped the track but there were complications. After Uncle
suggested a solution which worked the foreman was very
He announced he would come to hear Uncle Will preach the following
Sunday. After the service he said as he shook hands, "I'm
grateful to you for putting the wee engine back on the track, but the
least said about the sermon the better."
R.P.B. was president of Lamar College in Lamar, Missouri, Will taught
history and English literature there. The two Bakers left
in 1901 moving to Anna, Illinois where R.P.B. was co-principal of the
Anna Academy. In 1904 Will completed his studies for the
Episcopal ministry and was ordained in 1904. The same year he
married Maud Kirkpatrick of Anna, Illinois. After a pastorate
southern Illinois they moved to Bloomington, Illinois where Will was
rector of St. Mark's. He served there for many years, later
moving first to Pontiac, then Momence, Illinois. His final
pastorate was at Evergreen, Colorado. He died in 1957 at his
retirement home in Roscoe, Missouri. The William Bakers had
children: Mary Elizabeth, 1905-1984; William Cornwall, 1907-1984; and
Richard Goodwin, 1911-19-.
of Will's stories which R.P.B. liked to tell was about a visiting
Bishop who, because of his rotundity, was having trouble getting into a
carriage when he was leaving. W. B. suggested that he turn
sideways. The Bishop asked him "My dear man, don't you know
is no sideways to a Bishop?"
Baker was a great fisherman. In the summers he would
his family at a campsite on the shore of Lake Michigan near Whitehall,
Michigan, then he would return to Bloomington until his vacation
time. Frances spent two vacations with the family at the
camp and Gladys one. Both were compliments of their Aunt
Nellie. R.P.B. joined W.B. and nephew Dick for a week or so
summer but he was distinctly unhappy; he was not a happy
When he told us about it he said the first night was miserably
cold. Their gear had arrived only in time to set up one tent,
unpack the barest necessities and not enough blankets. The
put Dick between them. Dick's version was that he never had a
blanket over him the entire night - just one going over him from side
to side. R.P.B. said the crowning indignity was the next
when they could not locate the coffee so had to drink tea!
interesting Baker connections arose through the Goodwin line and the
Mary Hall who married a Thomas Goodwin, circa 1810. A direct
descendant was Albert Goodwin (circa 1850-1934?) a famous watercolor
painter. Some of his work hung in the Tate Gallery, London
R.P.B. and his wife saw it in 1903. A large picture titled
"Dante's Inferno" may have been done in oils. John Ruskin,
professor of art at Oxford University, told R.P.B. that he considered
him the greatest Victorian watercolor artist because of his genius with
color. The 1933 edition of "Who's Who", British, lists
Goodwin's paintings, all with classical or biblical themes.
Mary L. told us she had lunched with Albert Goodwin just before she
came to U.S. in 1922. He was quite elderly then.
Frances and Gladys visited R.P.B.'s cousin Wilfred Wright in 1928 at
his Surrey home, he gave us an Albert Goodwin painting called "The
Gleaners". It was a pastel and gouache painting of people
gleaning wheat fields showing them at work among shocked wheat at
sunset. The colors were very delicate as I recall.
painting now belongs to Anne Goodwin Baker Wroblewski, Richard Goodwin
Mary Hall who married a Goodwin in 1810, there is a connection with
Newman Hall. Mary's brother John Vine Hall was proprietor and
editor of the Maidstone Journal. He had several sons, three
whom Mary H. Goodwin took into her home to raise and educate.
eldest, Christopher a.k.a. Newman Hall, was a Congregational minister
in London. His congregation raised the cost of a new church -
63,000 pounds - in four years. The church is located at the
junction of Kennington and Westminster Bridge Roads. He was a
prolific writer. The best known of his tracts is "Come to
of which four million copies have been circulated in forty
languages. He visited U.S. twice: first during the Civil War,
preaching in Boston and later giving the first outside lecture at the
newly opened Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, N.Y. He died
middle son, Samuel, took to the sea, becoming master of a sailing ship
at age 22. Later he was an officer of a ship in the Cyrus
expedition which successfully laid the North Atlantic cable in 1886.
Hall was the youngest of the three boys Mary H. Goodwin took into her
home. He was a Congregational minister. His son,
Arthur Vine Hall (born 1862) was a Presbyterian minister and a
poet. In 1890 he moved to Capetown, South Africa. A
of his poems "Poems of a South African" was published in
included the famous song of the cicada, "Singsingetjie". Singsingetjie
is the name the Dutch give the cicada. It lives for four
a grub underground, and then for six weeks as a winged
sing-sings most on hottest days. The Greek story is that two
harpers were competing for a prize when a string snapped. A
Goddess sent a cicada to supply the missing notes and so her favorite
provided the background and relationships, both close and remote in the
foregoing for Richard Philip Baker a.k.a. "Dick", his life takes center
stage. He was born in Condover, Shropshire, February 3, 1866,
the half-timbered Tudor house where his three siblings were
He was christened April 3, in the Condover Church.
Awards to Richard Philip Baker, Clifton College, Bristol, England
Charles. 1879, 14th thousand. A naturalist's
Journal of researches .into the natural history and geology of the
countries visited during the voyage of "The Beagle" around the
world. John Murray, London. x + 512 p.
Prize V, July 27,
Godofredus, ed. 1873, emended ed. Platonis omnia,
Sumptibus Ottonis Holtze, Lipsiae. xv + 725. p.
Form, Challenge Problems Prizes, July 25, 1882.
William. 1876, 3rd ed. A collection of problems in the
illustration of the principles of theoretical mechanics.
Deighton, Bell and Co., Cambridge; G. Ball and Sons, London, viii + 667
Form, Fox Prize for Physics, July 25, 1882.
R. 1881. Second series. Popular lectures on
scientific subjects. Trans. by
Atkinson. Longmans, Green, and Co., London. vi +
Form, Special Chemistry prize, July 31, 1883.
James Clark. 1881. 2nd ed. A treatise on
electricity and magnetism. Vol. 1.
Press, Oxford. xxi + 456 p.
Form, The Merchant Venturers Prize for Science, July 31, 1883.
Simon. 1883, 2nd ed., rev. Popular
astronomy. Macmillan and Co.,
London. xx + 579 p.
Form, Math. Prize, July 31, 1883.
William, Sir. 1882., new ed. Elements of natural
philosophy. Part 1.
at the University Press. vi + 295 p.
Form, The Merchant Venturers Prize for Science, July 31, 1883.
William, Sir and Hugh Blackburn. 1871, ed. 3,
Sir Isaac Newton's Principia. James Maclehose, Publisher to
+ 538 p.
Form, The Merchant Venturers Prize for Science, July 31, 1883.
William and Peter G. Tait. 1879, new ed. Treatise
on natural philosophy,
Vol. 1, Part 1. Cambridge at the University Press, xvii + 508
Form, The Merchant Venturers Prize for Science, July 31, 1883.
William and Peter G. Tait. 1882. Treatise on natural
philosophy. Vol. 1,
Part II. Cambridge at the university Press, xxv + 527 p.
Form, Album Prize, December 1883.
Alfred Russell. 1883. The Malay
Archipelago. Macmillan and Co., London.
xii + 653 p.
Form, Math. Prize, 1 st Set, July 29, 1884.
William, Sir. 1884, 2nd ed. Reprint of papers on
electrostatics and magnetism. Macmillan and Co., London. xv + 596 p.
Form, Headmasters Challenge, July 29, 1884.
H. 1881. First series, 2nd ed. Popular
lectures on scientific subjects.
by E. Atkinson. Longmans, Green, and Co., London. xiv + 314 p.
VI Form, lst set. Math. Prize, July 29, 1884.
POSTAGE AND FEES PAID
FOR PRIVATE USE $300
The National Museum of American History
Division of Mathemtics
Washington, D.C. 20560
DR. Uta C. Merzbach, Curator
father, William, recognized early that he was an unusual child, telling
his wife Ellen she must do everything she could to see that he had a
chance for a university education. For non-moni'ed people
social standing this was a problem in the mid-nineteenth
He began his formal schooling in Harrison's School, Shrewsbury, in
1876. Harrison gave him an excellent grounding in Latin,
the English language, mathematics and chemistry. A punishment
practiced in British schools at that time was caning by willow
switch. If the crime was major it could be "rod in
The switch was soaked in brine to give it greater sting. The
results for the recipient meant "mantelpiecing". Unable to
down comfortably the poor wretch stood at the mantel piece to
eat. R.P.B. was caned over a word he used correctly, then
not define. My mother did not approve of such punishment but
R.P.B. said it made the right and lasting impression.
these Shrewsbury days he experienced several events he described for
us. One year it was cold enough to freeze ponds for skating.
enterprising American rented skates for six pence. When
was ready to be fitted the entrepreneur directed him to put up "your
velvet and illuminated by a spot light.beetle crushers" (his
feet). Another experience with an American connection was a
lecturer on United States. His illustrations were paintings
unrolled laterally from side to side. After the Mississippi
there was a long blank before the scroll reached the Rocky
Mountains. Among lecturers R.P.B. heard Mark Twain and
Dickens, the latter dressed in black.
1877 he was awarded a full. scholarship at Clifton College, a Public
School, located in Bristol on the Severn River. From then on
scholarships, all by examination, provided for his education.
R.P.B. claimed his knowledge of organic chemistry (at age 11!) won him
the first appointment. His mother said it was not for his
literary style. (He was a matter-of-fact-writer but an elegant
interesting story about his chemistry classes at Clifton College links
him with the University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa, USA where he lived
later and taught. At Iowa a European trained scientist,
D. Hinrichs, taught chemistry classes. These he held in his
home with laboratories in which students performed the
experiments. The usual practice at that time was by
only. Clifton College was so impressed with this innovation
it adopted the Hinrichs' method. At that time R.P.B. was so
he had to stand on a wooden soapbox to reach the top of the laboratory
bench. This earned him the nickname "Soapbox Baker".
he was not very well, one term he stayed at home. His mother
noted an advertisement for a small boy to help an entomologist with his
spring collection. "Small boy" was to climb the trees for
collecting specimens. Consequently R.P.B. acquired a good
knowledge of entomology.
was very happy at Clifton. He related how the 1883 eruption
Mt. Krakatoa in western Java resulted in overcast skies from
ash that encircled the globe. R.P.B.'s only athletic
was winning the "Long Penpole" cross country race of 10
For this he was awarded a silver loving cup, now at John
Later this race, considered too demanding was shortened to five miles,
and then abandoned altogether. A fellow student was Robert
Baden-Powell, later Sir Robert, founder of the Boy Scouts. At
Clifton the boys called him "Bathing Towel".Another fellow Cliftonian
was Dalhousie Young. He was very musical which R.P.B.
appreciated. He was the product of the British colonial
system. His father wasa Colonel in the British army in
India. Dal Young had been sent to England when a young boy as
the common practice in such situations. By the time he was
Colonel Young had retired, returned to England to live. I
R.P.B. visited the family at least once. Colonel Young and
wife found England too rainy and gloomy in the winters so went to Italy
for several months each year. There he was unhappy with the
generosity with which garlic was used. Finally he decided a
boiled egg should be safe. But the deeper he ate the stronger
flavor of garlic. Examination revealed that a bit had been
into the bottom of the egg. Dal Young wrote some lovely music
the piano. For summer holidays he liked to take walking trips
the Balkans. Having an unusually quick ear he picked up
and dialects easily. Consequently when W.W.I began he was one
the few men in England who understood these languages. He was
sent on many missions, then lived through the Gallipoli
His health was never good after that and he did not live long
Clifton College R.P.B. was the recipient of many honors.
he completed the work of the 6th Form by the end of the 5th.
entitled him during his last year the free use of laboratories and
library. When he left Clifton in 1884 he was "School
Exhibitioner". During his years at Clifton he accumulated
prizes by examination. The School Examiners awarded books of
their choice to the winners. R.P.B. collected thirteen of
awards. The books were always known as "Father's prize
books". Many of them were bound in leather with gold titles
the spine and the facing pages marbleized. A list is
appended. Most of these were given to an appreciative
mathematician friend but two were sent to the Smithsonian Institute,
Washington, D.C. as part of the material there about R.P.B. in the
Mathematics Section of the
that it had an outstanding man in R.P.B.,. Clifton College insisted he
sit for the Brackenbury Scholarship at Balliol College,
R.P.B. did not want to attend Balliol for it emphasized the classics;
he wished to go to Cambridge University for mathematics. But
Brackenbury was so prestigious that any school which could claim one of
their men had taken it received kudos. Years later when
and Gladys visited there, we asked the hall porter if we could view
Father's rooms (Oxford was not in session at the time). With
obvious American accents the porter asked if he was a Rhodes
Scholar. When he heard Brackenbury we could have had the
place. The rooms were not very large, had a living room with
fireplace and, of course, double doors at the entrance. The
one, heavy oak was always left open unless one wished complete
privacy. The latter practice was known as "sporting the oak".
name is Benjamin Jowett,
is known .I know it.
I know not is not knowledge,
I am Master of this College."
Oxford student was required to have fittings for the "High
Table". This meant silverware for twelve and linen
banquet size. There was a lovely teapot with Georgian lines
handsome cruet with crystal bottles for condiments: oil, vinegar, salt,
pepper and mustard. The cutlery included dinner knives,
forks, tea forks, tea knives, teaspoons, dessert spoons, soup spoons,
egg spoons and mustard spoons, as well as serving pieces. The
dinner and tea knives had ivory handles. All pieces were
R.P.B. I believe Aunt Annie Baker Wright outfitted Father
these. All the Oxford accouterments belong to John Baker now.
entered Oxford University in 1884 when Benjamin Jowett was Head Master
at Balliol. I suspect Jowett was both arrogant and stuffy
steel engraving of him hung in Fathers study. I had a small
below it and I felt he never approved of me! Students made up
verse about him.
students had a characterization for Liddell (father of Alice Liddell
who inspired Lewis Carroll's "Alice in Wonderland") and
This pair produced the standard Greek Lexicon: Liddell the work, Scott
the money. In this case each line is represented by a series
"Liddell and Scott
Liddell and Scott
* * * *
One was the scholar
* * * *
The other was not."
R.P.B. story explained why he had no nickname at Balliol, having been
preceded by two Bakers (not related) one of whom was called
"Damnation", the other "Salvation". So what was
left? A few
times R.P.B. put on his Oxford accent to entertain his daughters, much
to their delight and amusement. In R.P.B.'s day no women were
eligible for degrees but could attend lectures if chaperoned.
R.P.B. attended some chemistry lectures given by a Don whose chief
chemical accomplishment had been a patent for putting more air into
soap but knew little chemistry. Naturally R.P.B. was
So he found a seat behind a young lady whose chaperone read books in
large print. He read Browning over her shoulder.
at Oxford Aunt Annie Wright's home, "The Chestnuts", became his second
home. Aunt Annie was an excellent pianist, often entertained
outstanding musicians. One of these was the Abbe Franz Liszt
R. P. B. met there and heard play. He later met Eugene
who was a student of Liszt's and became a well known
He also distinguished himself by marrying nine times. Aunt
and D'Albert's mother were boarding school friends. The lady
famous for the invention of a device that allowed the making of lace on
Until then all lace was handmade.
so near London gave R.P.B. the opportunity to hear concerts, operas,
and several of the Gilbert and Sullivan operettas as they
premiered. In his music library we had full scores of all the
Beethoven symphonies, much Bach, Berlioz, all the Wagner operas, all
the first editions of the Gilbert and Sullivan operettas. The
volume of Beethoven piano sonatas we had belonged first to R.P.B.'s
father from whom he inherited it. A small book, a little less
than 8 1/2 x 11 inches, it had remarkably clear print. Since
William Baker died in 1874 this volume had to be at least that old but
I believe it was older. Unfortunately there was no
date in it. The frontispiece was an especially fine steel
engraving of a bust of Beethoven.
R.P.B. was more interested in mathematics and physics than classics he
matriculated at London University simultaneously with Oxford
University. He was awarded a special prize at the entrance
examination, the youngest man to be so recognized. He
both Oxford and London Universities in 1887, taking honours at the
former and being in the First Division of the latter.
obtaining these degrees there were few opportunities for academic
work. He had no influential connections, Civil Service meant
overseas service, Public Schools were out because he was not athletic,
certainly could not play cricket. He accepted an appointment
Science Master and Head Teacher, Academical Institute, Boyle, County
Roscommon, Ireland, the summer of 1887, a government
Boyle was in borderland country of Protestants and Catholics.
Consequently he found that neither group of students would attend with
the other. R.P.B. thereupon separated the two groups, taught
in two sessions: early morning to early afternoon and early afternoon
to early evening. By a curious ruling the salary was paid in
months' increments. At the end of the first period the
Government denied payment with the excuse that he was employed to teach
only one session. He did tell us that it was a very grueling
experience for the boys outnumbered the number of positions that might
be open to them making it cut-throat competition. There was
active fighting in the region. When he tried to take some
photographs his camera was confiscated.
this point he decided it was time to leave England. He had
learned that his best Shrewsbury friend, Ben Pritchard, who went to
India on a civil service appointment after finishing Cambridge
University as Senior Wrangler (top mathematical honors) had been clawed
to death by a tiger. R.P.B.'s comment in relating this was
- "What a waste of a Senior Wrangler". In March 1888 he and
brother Will left Liverpool for Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.A.
day out of Boston the final blast of the famous blizzard of '88 hit the
ship. They landed on March 15th (?). Neither of
ever seen such a storm. The hatches of the ship were
iced over when they landed. The sailors had to hack them open
with axes. Boston was still digging out.
Boston three disasters awaited them. At dinner in the hotel
they registered they were served corn bread which they mistook for
pound cake, saving it for dessert. I don't think R. P. B.
liked corn bread. Second, they sent their clothes to a
but none of the silk underwear ever came back. The third and
final blow came at the railroad station when they presented their
prepaid tickets to Seattle. The tickets purchased through the
Liverpool steamship agent were worthless.
money they signed on as carpenters on a fruit boat going to Tampa,
Florida. In Tampa they were delayed by a six weeks'
one of the sailors had a communicable disease. After that
worked their way to New Orleans.
was an excellent carpenter. As a boy he had worked summer(s?)
with a carpenter. Under him he learned about different kinds
wood and their various uses, e.g. yew and ash for bows. He
me how the famous black oak floors in old houses were achieved and
their color maintained. The floors were treated with a
combination of beeswax and soot which took a high
but needed frequent replenishing.
a winter in New Orleans with their Uncle Alfred the brothers moved to
Weatherford, Jack County, Texas. Why they chose that location
unknown. R.P.B. told me that in 1889 much of the land was
unfenced, that in spring the spread of wildflowers was
After fencing the seeds could not blow freely so were chiefly reduced
to the fence lines for bloom. In Texas R.P.B. taught
school and music while reading for the bar. He was admitted
the Texas bar in January 1891. He practiced law there until
January 1894. He explained that if he had stayed it meant a
practice in either criminal or corporate law neither one of which he
was interested in pursuing. Until that time the majority of
had concerned land ownership and title rights.
never ran out of Texas stories. His most famous case was
bale of barbed wire, delivered to the home of a rancher. He
denied ordering it, refused to pay. The supplier claiming it
ordered sued to recover its cost. R.P.B. set up his
as a "hypothetical indictment", as one prepares proof of a
theorem. "If such and such were true, then it would follow
….". Not only did R.P.B. win the case it was upheld by the
Supreme Court. Years later a Dean of the University of Iowa
School - Eugene A. Gilmore, formerly Vice, then Acting Governor of the
Philippines - doubted this story so checked it in the
then admitted to R.P.B. that his story was right. R.P.B, was
never to my knowledge mendacious.
seeing a reference to the 12-tone scale reminded me of a Texas tale
R.P.B. told. One of his music students was a singer with a
beautiful voice but she could not sing on pitch. She had been
raised in China on the 12-tone scale and could not adapt to the 8-tone
trials were of lesser importance but often amusing. There was
story of a black man who had attacked his wife with a carving
knife. In his own defense he said "Well, judge, sometimes
ain't anything else you can do with a lady except cut her up a bit".
case involved a lady suing her husband for divorce because every time
she entertained her ladies' club her husband ate all the whipped cream
before it could be served.
winter of 1890-1891 Ellen S. Baker R.P.B.'s younger sister came from
England for a visit. He had requested she bring with her some
things of his still in England including his trombone. At the
York customs the officer inquired if it was hers. She
by asking if she should play it for him. The offer was passed
but the trombone was admitted.
Aunt Nellie was in Texas R.P.B. had a case which needed a supoena
served but the man was wily, could never be caught in the presence of a
witness. Then Aunt Nellie, not yet known in the area and
Will both dressed in their best, got into the buggy all cleaned and
polished driven by the well curried horse. They drove off at
spanking pace. The first person they met was stopped so Uncle
Will could ask directions to the nearest justice of peace.
query was repeated several times and each time the curious followed
them until they had a good group behind them. All expected to
a wedding. Uncle Will turned into the yard of the man who was
receive the subpoena and served it in the presence of several witnesses.
day R.P.B. returned home to find his house burglarized. No
or pans, no silver, no linens nor china were left. So he
for enough search warrants to search every house in the black community
with help so there was no time for the culprits to dispose of anything
further. Even though well dispersed everything was recovered,
except one tea knife. That is why we had only eleven tea
Weatherford R.P.B. enjoyed the company of a violinist teaching
there. The latter's landlady had a parrot with a raucous
who screeched especially during the violin lessons. The
appealed to R.P.B. who came up with a solution. He told the
violinist to teach the parrot to say ."Bill Branigan is in town", the
landlady's husband who was wanted by the law. The poor parrot
it became clear by 1894 that the emphasis on law practice in Texas was
shifting away from his interests, he was tempted to return to the
pursuit of mathematics at the recently opened University of
Chicago. It was founded in 1892 by John D.
suspect, too, Texas at that time was not exactly an intellectual
center. Nevertheless, he was grateful for the Texas interlude
it had greatly helped his chronic sinus and bronchial conditions.
Chicago University he was Reader in Classics for the entrance
examinations, organist and choir master. He was amused when
Harper, the President, said "Mr. Baker that choir doesn't
very well". Father's rebuttal: "I know, Mr. President, that
true but I hear they play a fine game of football".
ate at the same boarding house as Arthur F. Bentley, a recent Ph.D.
from Johns Hopkins University in government and philosophy.
two became firm friends. A.F.B. had been hired for a base
of $600 per year plus a bonus per student in his classes. The
older staff members had already signed up most of the students so he
had few bonuses. At the end of the year he declared he would
never teach again. He never did except for a term at the New
School for Social Research in New York City during W.W.II.
told me then he made this decision for he felt the strictures of
academia would limit his freedom in writing. Instead he wrote
editorials for the now defunct Chicago Record-Herald. In 1908
published his classic "Process of Government". Reviews were
lukewarm to scathing (Bentley was too far ahead of his time) resulting
in a nervous break down. Earlier on a walking trip he and his
wife fell in love with the rolling hill country of southern Indiana,
not far from French Lick. The Bentleys purchased a section of
land, built their home of native chestnut wood, just before the
devastating chestnut blight destroyed these native trees. The
outside was left unstained; it weathered to a beautiful silver in
time. The land development included apple orchards and a
dairy. When A.F.B. died in 1957 the dairy was still in
operation. Here A.F.B. continued to write and
Baker-Bentley correspondence (until 1937 when R.P.B. died) is in the
archives of the Eli Lily Library, University of Indiana. Not
until W.W.II was the significance of his first book
Then, much to A.F.B.'s amusement, several university presses published
editions of the "Process of Government" - Princeton, Harvard,
University of California Berkeley, among others.
In 1895 when A. F. B. began to write newspaper editorials, R. P. B. had
to decline a University of Chicago offer of a years fellowship for the
salary was too niggardly to live on for a year -- $300.
he accepted a teaching appointment for science and mathematics at
Kenosha Boys' School in Kenosha, Wisconsin. This school was
designed to cram enough into its students to pass college entrance
examinations. Nearly all were the overindulged sons of
families. One of the worst was Paul A. Allen, son of the head
Allen A. Hosiery. In a chemistry class demonstration as
was about to light a Bunsen burner he caught a curious anticipatory
look on Allen's face (actually, I think he said a look of unholy
glee). Blowing out the match he turned the burner upside down
dumped out gunpowder. Another episode involved ice skating on
pond. A boy fell through the ice and R.P.B. managed to get
out. Then he found himself in difficulties but all the boys
left, gone back to announce "Baker drowned". They did not
appreciate R.P.B.'s ingenuity for he did extricate himself.
year was enough of that!
next year, fall of 1896, R.P.B. went west to be a music professor at
the University of Oregon Eugene. Having had an arduous train
because of floods, washouts and bridges out of service, he left word at
the hotel desk where he registered, that he did not wish to be
disturbed the next morning. Yet quite early there was a knock
the door. He opened to a dapper, white haired gentleman with
well trimmed Van Dykk beard who introduced himself as head of the
classics department. Apologetically he said he just wished to
know "which side of the controversy" R.P.B. was going to be
Naturally one inquires the nature of the controversy. It was
whether the pronunciation of Latin should be classical or
anglicized. R. P. B. explained he had attended a Public
England where he said "lam tum", then at Balliol College, Oxford
University had learned to say "lam tum", and if necessary could even
combine the two. The professor smiled, bowed, and went away
to be heard from again.
opinion of this University was never higher than that of Old Mr.
Benjamin Bunny's of cats which was "... no opinion whatever of
cats". In the late 1950's while driving in the west, I spent
night in a Eugene motel. I bought a paper for the local news,
it was the 60 years' ago column which caught my attention.
chief news centered on the monthly consumption of alcohol, both beer
and whiskey by the barrel and gallon. I am sure Eugene was a
open logging town in 1896. No wonder R.P.B. was not happy
there. By the end of the year he was
the move again.
1897 he went to Lamar, Missouri as President and Science Master of
Lamar College, which was probably the equivalent of a modern community
college. There the students admired and respected
Several of them later completed Ph. D. degrees, one in
The head of the music department was Estella Hillman, a graduate of
Illinois Wesleyan University, School of Music in Bloomington,
Illinois. At that time I.W.U. was one of a very few
granting a Bachelor of Music. She resigned at the end of 1899
she planned to be married. As a friend of Kate Riedelbauch,
an I.W.U. School of Music graduate, she suggested that Kate apply for
this position. She did, joining Lamar faculty the fall of
1899. There she taught piano and voice. When R.P.B.
Lamar College for Anna Illinois Academy in 1901, they were
engaged. Their marriage took place February 22, 1902.
Lamar, Will and R. P. B. suspected that the secret ballot was not
secret. At a local election one voted for the proposition,
other against. In an hour it was all over town that those
fool professors had canceled each other's vote".
couple lived in a large Academy owned house. There were a
of roomers: students who took care of furnace, snow shoveling and lawn
moving, as well as young instructors. Not only were the young
roomers they were boarders. Kate had one full time helper, a
capable young woman named Bertha, certainly needed for there were
twelve at table! In addition Kate taught both music and
German. The daughter of German immigrants she was well versed
the language. In fact, when R.P.B. needed his translations
refined she could help him.
was amused by a next door neighbor, a retired farmer. On the
he and his wife rose early which was a habit they could not
break. Since they were unable to sleep late Mr. "X" would say
his wife "Might as well get up. No use lying here and wearing
first child, Nellie Frances a.k.a. Frances Ellen, arrived December 19,
1902. The following summer the three Bakers went on a three
months' visit to England so that Ellen Eley Baker could see her first
grandchild. Frances was christened Nellie Frances in Bamwood
Church near Gloucester, after her Aunt Ellen and maternal
grandmother. Not until after the christening did Kate learn
"Nellie" was a nickname. Frances never used
she graduated from high school it was as Frances Ellen. This
legalized in 1928 when she applied for her first passport.
used to joke that he had looked forward to doing three things when he
returned to England: eat a good British dinner, smoke a good English
cigar, and work in the Bodleian Library. He found he could do
none of them: the dinner was too heavy, the cigar too strong and the
library too cold.
another year at Anna Academy, the family moved to Chicago. In
summer of 1904 R.P.B. was Special Lecturer at the University of Chicago
on Lie Groups. After that he was Head Chemist for Donnelly
Sons Printing Company. It made its own inks which required
batch be standardized. Neither he nor Kate was happy in
Chicago. When she asked him what he really wanted to do he
immediately responded "Teach mathematics". With her
he accepted an instructorship in mathematics and astronomy at the State
University of Iowa (later the University of Iowa) in Iowa
They moved there in the fall of 1905.
consuming interests were the basic motivations in R.P.B.' s life:
teaching mathematics, constructing mathematical models to illustrate
mathematical teaching, and music.
music, his wife Kate said after reading Catherine Drinker Bowen's
description of a musical friend, "He has to have it", that this was
true for R.P.B. It was a basic necessity. He was
years old when his father, the organist, died but presumably the latter
taught his son some rudiments of music. At Oxford University
studied organ and theory with John Farmer. Along the way he
developed an interest in the viola. At the University of Iowa
was first chair for the viola section of the Symphony Orchestra for
many years. While in Texas he did quite a bit of composing,
chiefly piano music and songs. He wrote music as easily as
English in a legible hand. I believe only one song was ever
published: a setting for William Blake's "Prince of Love".
Another, unpublished, was called "South Wind". It was a
of mine as was his piano "Fughetta", also unpublished.
At the University of Iowa he found the niche he could live in with
content. It was his final move. Iowa City was well
with easy railroad access to Chicago where he often attended
mathematics meetings. As the University developed it offered
advantages. There was a good lecture series, excellent
concerts and eventually first class theater. The men's
club, The Triangle Club, had an extensive variety of newspapers and
magazines in its reading room, both domestic and foreign. Its
quarters were located in town making access easy for it was on his way
home. Reading there kept R.P.B. and his family in touch with
world, for he readily shared the news. Once he was baffled as
were his colleagues, by an advertisement in "Punch" for a pair of men's
pyjamas (sic) which were described as "non-ladderable". It
clear to his daughters that this meant they would not run!
stimulating association was a group of faculty men who called
themselves the "Know-nothing Club". There were usually 12
members, each representing a different field of interest.
held their meetings in their homes, the host setting the topic of the
evening. Wives provided refreshment, first at the close of
discussion, later preceding it. Often it took a day or two to
clear the house of smoke from cigarettes and cigars.
R.P.B. joined the Mathematics Department of the University of Iowa in
1905, Laenas G. Weld was the department Head. He was
Arthur G. Smith, a Ph.D. from Gottingen University in Germany, whom
R.P.B. admired greatly and was grieved by his early death in
1916. Until Henry L. Rietz was appointed Head in 1918, R.P.B.
served as Acting Head. Needing an instructor, an offer was
to Norbert Wiener (later M.I.T.) but Western Union failed to deliver a
telegram and by the time the message did reach him he had already
accepted another offer. Later, after I knew Norbert Wiener
sister Bertha Wiener Dodge was the wife of my major Ph.D. professor) I
was sure that if he had come to Iowa it would have been an utter
1905 when R.P.B. joined the S.U.I. faculty it seems to have been the
custom for instructors to provide their own desks. R.P.B.
purchased his for $1.00 from the retiring head of the engineering
department, Dean Megowen. It was a solid cherry desk with
slightly slanted writing surface, probably circa 1870 covered with
something resembling leatherette. Later I learned this was
"nineteenth-century grained oil-cloth". (See: Keys, Margaret.
1988. Old Capitol - portrait of an Iowa landmark.
Iowa Press, Iowa City. p. 105). R.P.B. used this desk from
to 1936. Then the department divided and reassigned office
space. R.P.B. moved from his large ground floor office, B-16,
a smaller room. B-16 overlooked the campus sloping toward the
west and the Iowa River. Both Frances and Gladys used it
their University classes. I always liked the cherry desk now
longer needed. I asked R.P.B. to give it to me. It
brought to our Kirkwood Avenue home and after R.P.B.'s death in 1937, I
sent it to the Francke Furniture Shop in Old Amana, Iowa.
shop worked only in solid walnut and cherry. The oil-cloth
was replaced with cherry wood. The result was
Years later when the house was rented to a staff member of the Iowa
Experimental Writing group, Robert Penn Warren saw it. He
asking to buy it saying he thought he could write on it. Of
course, I would not sell it. When the house was sold the desk
moved east. I used it for ten years in my Vassar College
office. After I planned to move permanently to the University
Hawaii in Honolulu I gave it to my friend Dr. Louise Potter of Elmira
College with the proviso that it always be a teacher's desk.
There were too many termite problems in Hawaii to take it there.
his teaching career at the U.I. R.P.B. taught a number of
subjects. These included: algebraic geometry, to which he
particular attention; algebraic and differential equations;
mathematical physics, especially thermodynamics and crystallography;
beginning and advanced calculus; and introductory algebra and
trigonometry. From 1906-1909 he was summer session director
the observatory and taught astronomy. Frequently he was
director and participant in the graduate seminar. (Foregoing data
supplied by Francis Baker.)
had some student stories to tell which titillated him. A lady
a summer school class in astronomy inquired the first day if there
would be much about angles in the course. When she heard
she sighed, admitting she hated angles. She did not appear
again. In another summer school class in projective geometry
R.P.B. inquired of the students' interest in this field, he asked a nun
if it was of particular interest to her. She replied, "Oh,
Professor Baker, for me it is supreme penance". Then there
the student in the mechanics class who was the only one who could
correctly define force but always spelled it "fource".
intelligence tests became popular he tried his own on a freshman
class. There were three questions: How far can you
high can you hear.? How hot can you feel? Answers to the
included "I can see as good as anybody"; "I can see the writting on the
blackboard (sic)". Only one person said he could see the
etc. No-one had any conception of the audible range of sound
decibels or units with differences in intensity. Nor did
appreciate that one cannot feel beyond the boiling point of water (100
is doubtful if the average student could appreciate R.P.B. but the
bright ones from undergraduate to graduate students were
devotees. For some graduate students he assigned the reading
"Alice in Wonderland" as a mathematical allegory. E.g. the
knight starting on his trip with a mouse trap because "there might be a
mouse" was a mathematician. (After all, the author Lewis Carroll was
Charles L. Dodson, a well known mathematician at Oxford
University. When Queen Victoria after reading "Alice" and
"Through the Looking Glass" ordered all Carroll's publications she was
astounded to receive tomes on advanced mathematics). Only
Montgomery, later on the staff of the Institute for Advanced Study,
thank you very kindly for the very excellent photographic
representation of a model concerning opalescence. The form
so good that there is no need for additional models.
Smoluchowsky is long dead; he died at a young age, indeed not long
after the publication of opaleszenz-work."
greetings to you
any headway with this assignment.
summer of 1910 R.P.B. returned to the University of Chicago to complete
requirements for the Ph.D. This was awarded in September 1910
"Magna cum laude" in mathematics and physics. The doctoral
dissertation, "The Problem of the Angle Bisectors" was published by the
University Chicago Press, March 1911. The dissertation was an
application of algebraic geometry to a previously unsolved problem of
considerable historical note. E. H. Moore was his
He headed the examination committee consisting of Heinrich Maschke,
Oskar Bolza, E. J. Wilczynski and L. E. Dickson. R.P.B.
Wilczynski who later became a victim of trypanosomiasis (sleeping
sickness). The disease was misdiagnosed, attacked the CNS so
years the victim was in a mental home. By the time his
was properly diagnosed so that he was suitably treated he was unable to
resume a mathematical career. R.P.B. greatly regretted this
the "Angle Bisectors" and its author's accomplishment in its solution
H. Wieleitner wrote in Archiv der Matematik u. Physik, 3 Reihe 19, p.
342: "Diese Arbeit gibt die vollstandige, und man kann sage
abschliessende Behandlung des problems, ein Dreick aus den (vor einer
Eck bis zum Gegenseite gemessen) Langer dreier Winkelhalbierenden zu
bestimmen". (Cited by F. E. Baker) This commendation pleased R.P.B.
in his early mathematical career in U.S. R.P.B. became fascinated by
the use of three dimensional models in teaching mathematics.
may have been touched off by reports of an outstanding Mathematical
Congress held at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois in
connection with the Columbian Exposition (World's Fair) of
A major speaker was Felix Klein of Gottingen University who urged
improvement in the teaching of mathematics (E.T. Bell, 1945, ed. 2.
Development of Mathematics, McGraw-Hill, NY, chapter 20).
also displayed his model of the "27 lines on a cubic
No-one knew better the need for improvement in the teaching of
mathematics than R.P.P.., after his experiences. Probably
challenge was only the needed catalyst for R.P.B.
until his Iowa City residency did he have a chance to implement his
ideas. He began with simple geometric, progressing to more
more advanced models. At his Iowa City home the original barn
the Kirkwood Avenue property was remodeled into a workshop.
he produced models in wire, colored silk threads in wood frames, and
plaster sometimes painted in various colors. Each was
planned and solutions of the problems illustrated were filed in
numbered boxes corresponding to the model number in his little
catalogue. Many of the complex models had templates for their
design also included with the other details. He made his own
boxes out of strawboard. The amount of work this entailed was
tremendous requiring sustained application. He was a very
worker as well as meticulous. He printed his catalogue on a
press for which he set the type. After his death many of the
models were sent to M.I.T. on permanent loan but finally went to the
Smithsonian Institute where they are located in the Historical Section
of Mathematics along with his vitae, portrait and other memorabilia.
the spring of 1937 R.P.B. sent Albert Einstein a photograph, made by
Frederick Kent, University of Iowa photographer, of his model No. 455,
(p. 22 in Model Catalog) illustrating Smoluchowski's statistical gas
theory explanation of opalescence at the critical points. The
model is a combination of a Van der Waal's isotherm and Gaussian curve.
(See: Smoluchowsky, Ann. d. Physik, 25). A photograph of
Einstein's reply is appended; the original is on file at the
Smithsonian Museum, Washington, D.C. In translation the
the years many distinctions accrued to his credit for his
accomplishments. In 1890 R.P.B. was named a member of
Convocation, University of London which had full Parliamentary voting
rights. From time to time formal invitations for tea arrived
always weeks late. In 1910 he was awarded the Ph.D. by the
University of Chicago "Magna cum laude" in mathematics and
physics. In 1917 he became a naturalized citizen of U.S.,
with encouragement from his wife, Kate. Although he had
the process several times it then required seven years. Many
changes of address and the 1903 visit to England abrogated these
attempts. If he had not been naturalized then he probably
have been subject to the next British W.W.I. draft so hard pressed for
men was England by then.
was named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of
Science in 1910 and about the same time a Fellow of the Italian Circolo
Matematico di Palermo. His professional memberships also
charter memberships in the American Mathematical Society and the
Mathematical Association. For a number of years he served as
editor of the former, chiefly having charge of the problem
department. He frequently served as a consultant on acoustics
problems concerned with production of sound and reception of
sound. On campus he held memberships in the honorary
Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Society, to which he was elected in
1908 and Gamma Alpha, men's honorary scientific fraternity and the
Baconian Club, a local University club.
did he neglect his interest in law being friendly with several local
lawyers and judges. He sometimes searched titles for his
purchasing homes, thereby saving a lawyers fee.
1910 the Baker family of four moved from a small house on Kirkwood
Avenue to a large 1874 brick house. This house was built by
Florence and Augustus Clark, the latter a descendent of Abraham Clark,
signer of the Constitution from New Jersey. A restriction in
deed precluded the sale of the house as long as Florence Clark,
Augustus' widow, lived. In 1914.this restriction was lifted
R.P.B. and Kate immediately purchased it. Kirkwood Avenue was
original stage coach road from Muscatine, Iowa on the Mississippi
River. It was the site of the home of Robert Lucas, the
territorial later Governor of the state and that of Samuel Kirkwood,
the Civil War Governor.
was proud of this home, liked working in the yard and garden.
also did much of the necessary remodeling himself. First he
rewired the house. It was constructed with a double brick
and an air space of several inches between the walls. This
it cooler in summer and warmer in winter. It also allowed for
stringing the electrical wires, in pipes, between floors. The
floors were the original wide pine boards over which carpets had been
tacked down many times. In 1918 R.P.B. began to lay new oak
flooring over these in a diagonal pattern. He laid one
himself hand scraping it, then agreed with my mother that he could
never do all of them. He hired carpenters to help but no
ever had the beauty of that first one. R.P.B. also restored
shutters on the outside making sure all could be opened and closed, a
boon on hot summer days.
property was a little over one acre. There were many handsome
trees including several native plums which made very tasty
marmalade. At the back of the house were the original log
constructed smoke house and the "necessary". (Kate had insisted on both
a bathroom and electricity before the 1910 move). In the
there had been a small log schoolhouse for the children. Mrs.
Clark was of unstable mind so this took the children away during the
day. It no longer stood when we moved in but pictures were
extant. All that remained were the large stones used in
constructing the fireplace. These R.P.B. moved to make a walk
in the back of the house. They were interesting geologically
the different embedded fossils.
remained a close friend of the Harrison family in England.
Harrison was his first school master. A daughter, Marion, was
student at the Royal Conservatory in London where she was training as a
singer. I believe that she and R.P.B. had an "understanding"
her death by tuberculosis was a genuine tragedy for him. Mr.
Harrison for many years wrote weekly essays for the Shrewsbury
Chronicle. One that R.P.B. often quoted was about selecting a
cheese at the local market. It began with his going to the
and tasting cheeses, one after the other. Finally he found
.which seemed to be the quintessence of them all, a Stilton.
Proudly he took it home and waited for its serving at tea.
remarked upon it. Finally curiosity forced him to
All agreed it was a good cheese but no-one thought it particularly
outstanding. Upon reflection Harrison decided they had no
preliminary build-up of appreciation. This build-up was the
keynote of the essay.
other British friends was Francis Nielson, a.k.a. Lord
Nielson was an important labor leader in Parliament until he married
Helen Armour of the meat packers' family from Chicago. That
dimmed his future for the Armours had very great wealth.
in England with whom he kept in touch were Francis Goyne and his
science tutor at Clifton College - Mr. Shenstone. He remarked
forlornly that there was little incentive to return to England for
nearly all his classmates had perished in W.W.I. I well
how depressed he was when the Iowa City paper carried the news that
England had declared war on Germany. This was on August 4th,
but probably the news was printed in Iowa City on the 5th. I
just six years old.
A Paean for a Father from a
was a moderate man. He never rushed for appointments nor was
ever late. When it is recalled all he actually accomplished
marvels. He was a deft and accurate worker who really lived
the mathematical precept: necessary and sufficient.
of the foregoing may seem unnecessary but these features all accrued to
make him the unique person he was.
his death William H. Roever, mathematician at Washington University,
St. Louis, probably best understood the man R.P.B. was when he wrote:
"In my long acquaintance with Professor Baker I was always impressed by
his unusual ability and great versatility combined with the
unostentation of real greatness".
memories of Richard Philip, my father, begin when I was nearly
three. The family had moved to the big brick house where I
up, the preceding fall. In the spring R.P.B. was preparing a
place for a vegetable garden and I was left in his charge one
afternoon. Several hens and a rooster had been installed in
old log smoke house back of the house. The rooster was a
malicious character. I clearly remember teasing him with a
stem with a tassel end (probably a piece of timothy grass). I
also clearly remember my astonishment when a mound of earth sent me
down. His revenge was a large peck out of one
I never confessed to anyone that I had been chasing him I know this is
my memory, not a told tale. Other early memories include
holding me on his lap at the piano while he played nursery songs from
the "Baby's Opera". Then there was an evening when he held me
his lap in his big Morris study chair and read to me. As I
read by four this must have been earlier. My mother was
the evening kitchen chores when she went into the pantry to close the
end window. At her scream father leapt into action: the book
one way, I another. My coefficient of importance was
shattered. The scream? A mouse had run across the
golf links lie so near the mill
almost every day
little children at their work
see the men at play."
a.k.a. "Ding" was the cartoonist for the Des Moines, Iowa "Register".)
I remember wheelbarrow rides sitting on top of the leaves when father
was raking in the fall. One year he built me a wonderful
house complete with a banister on the stairway, between its two
floors. There were always music, books and interesting
conversations with the family and visitors, all combining to make it a
perfect environment in which to grow.
loved to say he was in a minority with three women comprising the
family, but there was no question that he was the lodestar of his
family. He liked to tease us, too, about being a "monotonous
family". This originated through an experience on a trip when
Frances was about nine and Gladys just three. We were going
train from Peoria, Illinois to Iowa City. There was a long,
wait between trains at a junction point. Another traveler
remark to mother who, thinking he commented on the uncomfortable wait
replied, "Yes, very monotonous". The gentleman looked baffled
soon left. Father then asked mother what she thought the
traveler's remark was. She explained. So did
R.P.B.: He had
said "You have an interesting family."
doubting Thomases questioned R.P.B.'s records. One, a
at S. U. I., Forrest Ensign, had a term appointment at Bristol
University in England. He was astounded when he visited
College to see R.P.B.'s name on every roll of honor, admitting as much
to him when he came home. By R.P.B.'s code, Ensign should
have mentioned this. Another doubter was Brisbane University
Australia which advertised for a mathematician with his
specialties. He applied but did not get the
Later he learned the selection committee doubted his qualifications,
thought they must be faked. That hurt.
life had other ups and downs, mostly minor but always
interesting. A neighbor, Cyrus Thomas, a retired contractor,
he were good friends. Cy had a son, an engineering student
built his father a radio set in the days when they still required ear
phones. One evening father told mother Cy had called, asked
over to hear a "Bach program" an invitation he accepted with
alacrity. When father returned much later he sheepishly
it was a "boxing program". He never admitted his error to Cy,
just sat it out. Nor
would his code permit him to leave a concert no matter how
dreadful. On one of Galli-Curchi's last tours he and I were
the audience. It was so painful I wanted to leave as many
did. No, we had to wait for the end. One
summer when I was away he wrote me that he and mother had been to two
disappointing concerts. His comment: "One man could sing but
wouldn't, the other couldn't and would."
amused us one evening when he quietly emerged from his study.
"What have you been doing, Richard?", queried mother. His
"Reading Consumers Research and it isn't safe to live".
did not use expletives knowing well that there were other words more
expressive. Once when Frances and I were children she
to father that I had called her -- word forgotten. R.P.B.
replied "I think that is a little coarse." That was
enough for me.
did show annoyance years later when I reported that my major professor
in discussing where I should continue my studies for the Ph.D. degree
said that if I were a man he would recommend Harvard
R.P.B. did not believe in discrimination of women. He always
claimed that Clara Wieck Schumann was the greatest pianist he had heard.
jokes he enjoyed were mild, often from "Punch" magazine.
Among those he liked were:
lady kept urging her husband to shave off his mustache. One
morning he came to breakfast with half of it shaved off, asking "Now,
my dear, which do you prefer?"
bishop at breakfast with his curate inquired if the latter's boiled egg
was good. "Oh, yes sir, very good in spots."
bishop aboard a transatlantic steamship began to groan during dinner,
saying "It's come, it's come". "My dear bishop", inquired the
lady on his right, "What has come?". "Complete paralysis of
right leg. I have been pinching and pinching it but cannot
thing." The lady assured him, "if that is your problem, don't
worry. It is my leg you have been pinching".
was impressed by J. N. Darling's 1912 (?) cartoon which did much to
help pass child labor legislation. James A. Michener quotes
in his "The World Was My Home: A Memoir" 1992. His version,
though, is not correct. This cartoon shows an elevation of a
large mill with many windows and little children inside. In
foreground there are several men playing on a golf course.
could rise to any occasion. An Oxford University visitor who
delivered a lecture at S.U.I. insisted on meeting him.
Benjamin Shambaugh, a.k.a. "Benny" always introduced the university
speakers. He was Head of Political Science.
Characteristically he wore a red tie with matching handkerchief in his
coat pocket and carried a Malacca cane. He was a bit of a
fear. For instance, if "Benny" was walking by our house on a
Saturday and father was raking leaves wearing overalls and an old
sweater, he did not recognize R. P. B. The following week
the two men sat on the University Graduate Council, he did.
"Benny" and the Oxonian arrived, father was working on a model in his
shop. After an introduction the visitor recited several lines
from Homer's "Odyssey". Father, who had kept on working,
finished the quotation in perfect Greek, then rose to greet his
guests. Poor "Benny" was totally lost. Frances B.
witness to this exchange.
me he was the perfect father. I am grateful and proud to have
been his daughter.
Gladys Elizabeth Baker
(signature & date December 1997)
also overheard an interesting exchange between a lady caller and
Father. He and Kate had purchased an antique love seat and
matching chair at a local auction. "Professor Baker, do you
telling me what you paid for the set?". "Not at all" was the
rejoinder. "Was it very much?" "No, not very
The lady subsided.
R.P.B. did not often miscalculate but I recall one episode
particularly. He was very fond of pickled walnuts.
years he put young walnut fruits down in brine but nothing ever evolved
that was edible. Finally he realized that the Midwestern
walnut could not respond as the English walnut did. Father
also fond of black currant jam, an English favorite. After a
many years plants were found in Canada and a permit obtained for their
entry, although black currants do not harbor a phase of wheat rust as
do native currants, banned in wheat growing areas, a permit was
required. At last a. crop was harvested, jam made and put on
table for supper. R.P.B. sampled it, said nothing.
course, Kate asked him if he liked it, to which he replied "it is not a
success". This sent Kate to a reliable source of
information. The experienced lady explained one boiled the
before adding the berries, which prevents their skins from getting
tough. After that our jam was a success.
Baker became an American by deserting his English accent whereas his
brother, William, who was so much younger that he when they immigrated,
kept his. Father did say evolution and laboratory but that
about the extent of his English accent. In other ways he was
true Englishman. When one considers how many places he lived
United States plus the distances between, I am amazed how he kept his
many possessions together: two tall antique walnut bookcases, books,
music, musical instruments, mathematical journals, all his legal
briefs, correspondence, silver, linens, tools, pictures and probably
more. Most of these were tidily stowed away in a large
which filled one wall of his study. He built the bookcase
except for the upper leaded glass sliding doors. He guarded
"Lares et Penates", treasured belongings, well.