Charles Fuller Baker

A black and white portrait of Charles Fuller Baker.

22 March, 1872 — 22 July 1927

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Herbarium (NCU) curates about one hundred vascular plant specimens collected by Charles Fuller Baker — about a dozen collected solely by him in 1898, and another eighty or so collected with Franklin Sumner Earle in 1896-1899.   Most were collected in Alabama for the “Alabama Biological Survey”, but specimens collected in Florida, Mississippi and Tennessee have also been cataloged.  He usually signed his specimen labels as “C. F. Baker”.

NCU also curates about seventy fungi collected by Charles Fuller Baker.  While he frequently used labels printed for the Alabama Biological Survey, many of the fungi he collected were actually from Wisconsin and Colorado.  Baker, Franklin Sumner Earle and Samuel Mills Tracy traveled to Colorado during 1898 and botanized extensively in the area of Durango, Mancos and in the La Plata Mountains.  They produced an exsiccati, “Plants of Southern Colorado Collected and Distributed by C. F. Baker, F. S. Earle and S. M. Tracy”; specimens from this expedition are curated by NCU, Rutgers University (CHRB), Field Museum (F), University of Nebraska (NEB), University of California, Berkeley (UC), and University of Wisconsin, Madison (WIS).  NCU curates at least three type specimens from the Colorado expedition:  Lachnum engelmannii Earle (NCU-F-0013670); Pleospora megalotheca Tracy & Earle (NCU-F-0028469); and Ophiobolus castillejae Earle (NCU-F-0030507).

NCU curates type material collected by Baker when he lived in the Philippines:  Septobasidium bakeri Pat. (NCU-F-0020023, NCU-F-0020024); Septobasidium makilingianum Syd. & P. Syd. (NCU-F-0024919); Septobasidium minutulum Syd. & P. Syd. (NCU-F-0024923); and Septobasidium philippinense Couch ex L.D. Gómez & Henk (NCU-F-0024942).

As NCU  continues to catalog collections it is likely that more specimens collected by Baker will be found.

 

Essig, E. O. 1927.  Obituary:  CHARLES FULLER BAKER.  Journal of Economic Entomology  20(5):  748-754.

Charles Fuller Baker, entomologist, botanist, agronomist, collector, teacher, agricultural director and dean, died at St. Luke’s Hospital in Manila, Philippine Islands, on July 22, 1927, aged fifty-five years.  According to word received from D. L. Crawford, “his death was due to chronic dysentery which became acute and confined him in the hospital for two weeks before the day of his death.”  It is a comfort to his friends to know that during his illness he was attended by one of his own student, Doctor Leon Gardner of the Sternberg Hospital in Manila.  He was buried on the campus of the University of the Philippines where he spent the last nine years of his arduous life.  He was born at Lansing, Michigan, March 22, 1872, the second son in a family of ten children, and was the brother of the noted author, Ray Stannard, Baker, and the forester, Hugh Potter Baker.

At the Michigan Agricultural College, from which he graduated in 1892, he came under the instruction of Prof. Albert John Cook who exerted a profound influence upon his studies in entomology and botany as well as upon many of his later activities in life.  Prof. Cook once told me that Baker, when a student at college, spent all of his cash for insect boxes and by the time he graduated he had several hundred boxes of specimens, a larger and more complete collection than was at the college at that time.  As an undergraduate he assisted Prof. Cook from 1891-1892 when he was transferred as assistant to Prof. C. P. Gillette at the Colorado Agricultural College, Fort Collins, Colorado.  Here he made very extensive botanical and entomological collections and began publishing.  One of his first important contributions was “A preliminary list of the Hemiptera of Colorado” in co-authorship with Prof. Gillette.  Most of his earlier papers dealt with the Homoptera and particularly the Cicadellidate.  It was in this publication that he described the sugar beet leafhopper, Eutettix tenellus, as Thamnotettix.  In 1893 he was in charge of the Colorado forestry and zoological exhibit of the Columbian Exposition at Chicago.  The years 1897-1899 were spent partly in Alabama where he acted as zoologist in the Alabama Polytechnic Institute and entomologist in the Agricultural Experiment Station.  He was connected with the Alabama Biological Survey.  During 1898-1899 he was botanist on the H. H. Smith exploring expedition in the Santa Marta Mountains, Colombia.  In 1899-1901 he was a teacher of biology in the Central High School at St. Louis, Missouri.  Following this he studied with Prof. Vernon L. Kellogg at Stanford University where he obtained the degree of Master of Science in 1903.

Through the efforts of Prof. Cook, Baker was induced to accept the position of Assistant Professor of Biology at Pomona College in 1903, but he remained there only one year.  During this year he edited Invertebrata Pacifica.

He left California to become Chief of the Department of Botany of the Cuban Experiment Station (Estacion Agronomica), Santiago de las Vegas, Cuba, which position he held from 1904 until 1907.  During this very busy period also he published two very important papers on the then little known fleas of North America.  From Cuba he went to Brazil to assume the position as Curator of the Herbarium and Botanical Garden, Museu Goeldi at Para, where he stayed one year.  In Brazil he amassed very large collections of both plants and insects which were presented to Pomona College upon his return there in 1908.  It was at the beginning of my junior year in college there that I came under his singular guidance.  With the enthusiasm, confidence and untiring cooperation of Prof. Cook, he accomplished a remarkable piece of work at that institution.  His influence upon students was very unusual and he stimulated the most backward to produce surprising results.  Many things — equipment, housing facilities, money, were needed to supply him.  These were secured by Prof. Cook, either directly from the College or from private individuals.  Entomology at once forged ahead of all other biological sciences.  Systematic and life history work became fundamental.  For the citrus fruit growers of the region a system of orchard inspection was organized which gave not only excellent field experiences, but remunerative employment for advanced students, and rich returns to the growers.  During his four years’ stay there he inspired, trained and sent out a fairly large group of biologists in consideration of the small size of the institution at that time.

Early in 1909 he explained to Prof. Cook the great need of serial publications, not only as an outlet for the work of students and specialists, but also for the benefit of all interested in the biological sciences, especially entomology and botany.  Prof. Cook at one agreed and undertook, single-handed, to raise sufficient money by private subscription to finance first a Journal of Entomology and then a Journal of Economic Botany.  The former appeared in March 1909, and the latter in February 1911.  Another notable contribution was the publication of the First Annual Report of the Laguna Marine Laboratory in 1912.  The Pomona College marine station at Laguna Beach was organized almost entirely through the efforts of Professors Cook and Baker with financial assistance from a few local residents, and it is still ably conducted by Dr. Hilton.

In October 1911 the appointment of Prof. Cook as Horticultural Commissioner of California broke the magic ring of activities at Pomona.  When he removed to Sacramento there was no one lift to solicit the necessary funds to continue the work which was more than could be assumed by the College.  Certain restrictions were also made to prevent outside solicitations for aid which appeared to handicap permanently the future development of the important work so gloriously started.  After a year of disappointment Baker finally decided to accept the position of Professor of Agronomy at the University of the Philippines which was offered him by his good friend Dean E. B. Copeland, whom he succeeded in 1918.  During his long stay in the Philippines he left only once and that was for a year’s leave of absence in 1917-1918 to become assistant director of the Botanic Gardens at Singapore.  Every ounce of vitality was poured into his work.  His entomological collections received the greater part of his spare time.  He maintained at his own expense a Cuban collector named Julian Hernandez whom he carefully trained and kept with him after he left Cuba in 1907.  This man spent all of his time either collecting or caring for the insects, or in the domestic duties of a bachelor’s household.  Botany came in for a share also and fungi in particular were taken extensively throughout the Archipelago.  Every cent of his salary that could be utilized went towards building up the collections.  Concerning these he writes under date of April 27, 1925: “My outside work in entomology and mycology is the only thing that gives me any real satisfaction;  that, at least, is done as it ought to be done and I can go on and develop it to the limit of personal possibilities without let or hindrance from anyone.  I have pushed the number of foreign specialists engaged on our work up to one hundred ten, and keep them all busy!  It thus has become one of the biggest projects of its kind in the world.  And its ultimate permanent contribution to entomology will be very, very large.  And this helps very materially to make the stay here worth while.”

Failing health and gradual replacement of the American teachers and investigators by Filipinos many times

Illustration for CF Baker DWG
Charles Fuller Baker’s home in Los Banos, Philippines while he was Dean of the Philippines College of Agriculture. Undated photograph courtesy of Conrad Leighton, Baker’s grand-nephew.

influenced him to desire to give up his position in the Philippines and seek a place of complete change and a haven of peace and quiet in America where he could find space to house and work on this large insect collection during the remaining year of his life.  To this end an attempt was made to secure for him a place at the California Academy of Sciences, but the difficulty of raising a proper endowment indefinitely delayed action until it is now too late.  On August 30, 1925 he wrote: “The outside work I am carrying constantly looms larger and larger and it makes me want to stay here.  But poor health will probably force me to cut loose ere long.”

For several years he was considering an offer from a strong combination of all the entomological interests of the Hawaiian Islands to conduct extensive work in the western Pacific Islands, — “Over Wallace’s Trail.”  His failure to negotiate terms in California and the opportunities  offered by his own student, President Crawford, of the University of Hawaii, led him finally to accept the Hawaiian offer.  Accordingly, he presented his resignation to the College of Agriculture, University of the Philippines, Los Banos, Laguna, P.I, to take effect in November 1927.  In Science, it is stated that “he expects to spend next year with one of the Pan-Pacific research committees on the South Sea Survey and thereafter will make headquarters at the University of Hawaii with President David Crawford.  Arrangements have been made to house his large collections of natural history material at the Bishop Museum.”  On June 9, 1927 the Board of Regents of the University of the Philippines passed a resolution appointing him Professor of Tropical Agriculture and Dean Emeritus of the College of Agriculture of the University of the Philippines, and also Director Emeritus of the Experiment Station, effective December 1, 1927.  His untimely death came before this much earned public recognition was realized.

His insect collection is a remarkable achievement amassed over a period of fourteen years of unremitted labor.  From reports received from Baker in 1926 it contained approximately four hundred thousand specimens.  On November 9, 1926 he wrote me concerning it: “The collection is undoubtedly the largest existing private collection covering

Illustration for CF Baker DWG
Charles Fuller Baker’s home library/lab in Los Banos, Philippines. Undated photograph courtesy of Conrad Leighton, Baker’s grand-nephew.

extreme western Pacific.  The pinned part of it is contained in one thousand five hundred cases, all crowded full.  But as much more has been placed in the hands of one hundred ten (later one hundred fifteen) specialists and considerable portions of the latter will be returned.  I believe it is one of the most important collections basic to either Central and South Pacific work or to Southwest Asian studies since it includes several thousand types and cotypes.  Moreover, more material is constantly coming in and I have arranged that continued collections on a large scale will be made after i leave here.  I also have a lot of fine Australian material constantly coming in.  Moreover, I have taken the fullest advantage of exchange possibilities, making important exchanges with European museums and with individuals, in this way securing a vast number of species I lacked, many of these being cotypes.”

According to S. A. Rohwer, information received by Dr. L. O. Howard from Baker indicates that the insect “collection is considerably larger than it was in November 1926, as baker received from specialists quite a little material during the winter of 1926-27 and also continued to mount miscellaneous material which had been collected.  The figures for the number of cases undoubtedly referred to the pinned part only.   From information and letters, I gather that there is probably half as many specimens that are unmounted.”  All the mounting, labeling, packing ad shipping to specialists was done by Baker himself at night, the entire work including the salary of the collector already referred to, cost of pins, boxes, labels, packing and postage, was supported by his modest salary, etc., as he states, “if one lives simply and rigorously as a Trappist monk, many things may be possible.”  According to his long-standing will, the

Illustration for CF Baker DWG
Charles Fuller Baker’s home in Los Banos, Philippines. The walls are woven bamboo. Insect specimen jars on table, view of library/lab on left. Undated photograph courtesy of Conrad Leighton, Baker’s grand-nephew.

main insect collection was bequeathed to the U.S. National Museum.  The statement that small parts were also donated to the Universities of Berlin, London, Madrid, Paris, Moscow, and Vienna, is probably erroneous.  Crawford states that “he (Baker) was stricken so suddenly by this accute [sic] attack of dysentery that he had no time to make any changes in his will… and according to cable information received from Manila his old will still stands whereby the U.S. National Museum is to receive his main insect collection and the University of the Philippines is to receive his main collection of plant material.  Rohwer also states that “the will provides that the entire collection, manuscripts and notes, should come to the National Museum.  We have never been advised that there were any changes.  “The museum is planning to make arrangements to have the collection transferred to Washington as soon as practical after the will is probated.”

Entomology and mycology were only side issues or hobbies, as his real work was the development of agriculture in the Philippines.  A perusal of files of the Philippine Journal of Science and more particularly of the Philippine Agriculturalist and Philippine Agricultural review, the lat tow of which he was associate editor, will give something of the results accomplished.  Concerning this broader work of the following editorial of the Tribune is pertinent: “The Baker Leadership!  The University of the Philippines can ill afford to lose the services of Dean Charles F. Baker of the College of Agriculture.  He has made of his college an institution of the highest standing in this country an done to which recognition abroad has been deservedly given.  The Los Banos unit of the University (is) what it is because Dean Baker has put in its organization and management much of his own forceful personality and transferred to the faculty his own enthusiasm for its mission.

Charles Fuller Baker, May 1927, at his desk in his home in Los Banos, Philippines. NCU curates fungi Baker collected in the Philippines.
Photograph courtesy of Conrad Leighton, Baker’s grand-nephew.

“The work of bringing advanced methods of agricultural practices to the people on the farms has only been started.  It is the work not for a decade but for a generation.  In this task Dean Baker has been easily a recognized leader.  It is not too much to say of him that, were he to leave the college permanently, the Baker leadership will yet be felt through years to come.  It is a measure of his success that what is often good in scientific agriculture may be traced to a Baker tradition.”

Baker was a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Association of Economic Entomologists, Entomological Society of America, Washington Entomological Society, Southern California Academy of Sciences, and the Havana Academy.

Although he died comparatively young, he did the life work of ten men. (1)

This image of Charles Fuller Baker (1872-1927) was found in a booklet created for his memorial in 1927. The portrait was taken in January, 1926. The caption under the image reads: “1872-1926 and still going strong: Tired at the moment from fourteen years intensive work in the building of a university college without a vacation during that time, but good for twenty-five years more.” Smithsonian Institution Archives: Record Unit 7323, Box 2, Folder: 4

Welles, Colin G.  1927.  Charles Fuller Baker — A Sketch.  Science 66(1706):  229-230. DOI: 10.1126/science.66.1706.229

Charles Fuller Baker, scientist, collector and pioneer, is dead — conquered on the very eve of the release which his indomitable will had long promised a harassed body.  The doctors scarcely said whether it was malignant malaria or amoebic dysentery or tuberculosis to which he succumbed at last.

Five or six years ago, when I knew him as well as most men ever came to know him, Baker was living in a bamboo “bahia” on the outskirts of the dank little village of Los Banos, forty miles south of Manila.

There, in his two rooms among the tops of palm trees, with the stench of his neighbors’ pigs and caraboas floating up

Illustration for CF Baker DWG
Charles Fuller Baker’s home in Los Banos, Philippines. The floor of his library/lab was bamboo slats allowing air circulation. Undated photograph courtesy of Conrad Leighton, Baker’s grand-nephew.

through the cracks in his floor, he made additions to his superb collections of insects and fungi, and “thanked the Lord daily” for the ships which brought him letters from scores of unseen, unknown friends who had come to know and revere his solitary work as a scientist.

Though he was then only a little over fifty years, fever and a hundred tropic diseases had wasted his body and parched his skin, so that he looked more than seventy — very white of hair and intense of eye.

Baker lived apart from the faculty of the College of Agriculture of which he was dean.  Between him and most of us was an intangible though not unfriendly something which kept him from knowing the men intimately.  Perhaps he found some compensation in the pioneer conditions, which, under earlier Wisconsin skies, had stirred the blood of his father, living there among the natives, cared for only by a Japanese servant and his wife, cooling his water in a swinging earthen  jar and writing his innumerable letters.

At any rate, few persons know when intense pain made agony of his nights, or whether despair ever killed the stoic courage in his eyes.  Once, when I learned he was suffering from one of his recurrent attacks, I climbed the ladder-stairs of his shack and entered the gloom of his large single room.  He was lying on a narrow rattan couch, very wizened, very pale, and yet very fierce in the still, dark heat.

“Buenos Dios, senor,” he greeted me gaily, without moving.  I urged him to let us care for him, but it was obvious that that day at least he could not be moved.

The next noon he sent a note: “You are placing before me a fine temptation to be sick… You probably don’t know that you are also tempting me to back on one of my most cherished principles,  not to give up, or to resign myself to conditions until the Angel Gabriel blows his horn.”

After a week he was up once more, riding behind the gray nag along the blazing three miles of road to the the college, and greeting natives and Americans alike with his sweeping, faintly mocking friendliness.

Baker virtually built the Philippine College of Agriculture.  He fought for the appropriations which kept it going; he sought eagerly for a faculty fired by a kindred zeal to his own, for using the tropics as a great laboratory in which to enrich human knowledge.

A work fraught ab initio with disappointment!  A quest implicit with futility!  Baker found few men so free of ambition for personal glory, so urged by passionate scientific curiosity, that they would suffer his exile unmindful of loneliness, disease, perilous trips, neither seeking nor expecting gratitude, wealth or even academic recognition.

Next to the college he organized, to which come native lads from every part of the islands (Baker could capture their imagination and stir their hopes as no other member of the faculty could, or bothered to do), Baker was interested chiefly in his entomological and mycological collections.

He had a surpassing knowledge of insects and fungi and he showered the laboratories of collectors in the Orient and

Gravestone of Charles Fuller Baker in Saint Croix Falls Cemetery, Saint Croix Falls, Wisconsin, USA. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Herbarium (NCU) curates fungi and vascular plants collected by Baker.(3)

 

Europe with his specimens.  His own collections he gave in part to the College of Agriculture of the University of the Philippines, to the University of Hawaii and to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.

Impressive monuments though they are to his intrepid, tireless spirit, the generations while knowledge and whose living will be richer because of them, can scarcely glean from them a sense of the heroism of this rare and daring personality.

Yet Baker was not coldly impersonal.  In strange contradictions to his own stoicism, he was generous and sympathetic with people whose difficulties were not a fraction so severe as his own.

Once he gave up a long-cherished plan for a trip to another more remote part of the islands, because a native boy who was dying of tuberculosis had neither money nor friends to care for him.  Baker took the money he had put aside for the trip and sent the lad to the mountains.  For his own part, he stayed in his shack and classified his treasured insects.

In his death, science has lost a worker whose invaluable contributions were all too obscured by his indifference to public recognition, and a host of scattered admirers must be reminded of his countless kindnesses.(2)

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It seems that Baker was married, but Welles does not give her name or any details about her life. (2)

A plaque on the Baker family grave in Saint Croix Falls Cemetery in Wisconsin reads “In Memory of Charles Fuller Baker.  Second son of Major Joseph Stannard Baker and Alice Potter Baker.  Born Marcy 22, 1872 at Lansing, Michigan.  Died July 22, 1927 at Manila, Phillipine [sic] Islands.  Dean at the University of the Phillipines [sic].  Brave Scientist, Inspiring Teacher, He gave his life to the education of an Alien People.  His ashes are interred in Japan.”(3)

 

SOURCES:

  1. Essig, E. O. 1927.  Obituary:  CHARLES FULLER BAKER.  Journal of Economic Entomology  20(5):  748-754.
  2. Welles, Colin G.  1927.  Charles Fuller Baker — A Sketch.  Science 66(1706):  229-230. DOI: 10.1126/science.66.1706.229
  3.  Charles Fuller Baker.  Find A Grave Memorial # 145424377.  https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/145424377/charles-fuller-baker  accessed on 15 February 2020.