Robert  Baker

Robert Frank Baker

1936 - 2023

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Obituary of Robert Frank Baker

Robert Frank Baker (Apr. 9, 1936 - Feb. 24, 2023), of Pacific Palisades, California, was a professor of molecular biology at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles (USC) for 46 and a half years.  He retired in 2015 and was appointed professor emeritus.  He was born and grew up in Weiser, Idaho, and was a son of Robert Clarence Baker (16 July 1903 - 8 Oct. 1982), who was a pharmacist and owned Thriftway Drug Store in Weiser.  His mother was Beulah (Hulet) Baker (Mar. 5, 1911 - Mar. 22, 2004).  He graduated from Weiser High School in 1954 and went on to attend Stanford University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry in 1959.  He earned a master’s degree in biochemistry at the University of Kansas in 1962 and a doctoral degree in biological sciences from Brown University in 1966.  The previous year, 1965, he married Mary Margaret Murphy of Batesville, Arkansas, whom he met while both were pursuing graduate degrees in biological sciences at Brown University.  She graduated from Brown University with a master’s degree in biological sciences in 1965.  After leaving Brown University, he and Mary moved to Palo Alto, California and he worked as a post-doctoral fellow at Stanford University for two years (1966 - 1968).  Upon completion of his fellowship, he joined the faculty at USC as a professor of molecular biology.  In 1975, he took a sabbatical leave from USC to work at Harvard Medical School in Cambridge, Massachusetts for a year as a visiting associate professor (1975 - 1976).  His research specialties at USC were cancer biology, signal transduction and gene regulation, and structural biology.  During the summers, he and Mary took many trips, once to Peru and many to Europe.  In particular, they went on walking trips in Britain, France, and Italy.  He was active in mentoring and keeping up with his students, past and present, always taking an interest in their lives and careers.  He regularly read the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Economist, Nature, Cell, and Science, and kept up with the latest in science and technology.  Some of his particular interests were in the development of lithium batteries, theoretical physics, and quantum mechanics.  About a week or less before the end of 2022, he contracted COVID-19, which was followed by pneumonia, which led to his death of acute respiratory failure and pneumonia on Feb. 24, 2023 at age 86.

He is survived by his wife, Mary, his daughter, Allison Leslie Baker of Petaluma, California, his son, Steven Mark Baker of Sherman Oaks, California, an older brother, Boyd Eugene Baker of Meridian, Idaho, and a younger brother, Kenneth Marvin Baker of Los Angeles, California.  He is buried in Hillcrest Cemetery in Weiser, Idaho.

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