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? - September 2, 1901

The Department of Chemistry was two years old when Indiana Asbury University became DePauw in 1884 and Philip Shaffner Baker became the first Professor of Chemistry. Great plans were made for the new DePauw University.  Although new schools were to be organized around the Asbury College of Liberal Arts, the concern for the sciences was minimal; and departments were left with inadequate facilities. 


Philip Baker, a Psi Phi Deke in the Indiana Asbury University Class of 1874, with a 99.91 academic average, was made an Instructor of Natural Science and English after his graduation.  In the 1874-75 academic year, Prof. Joseph Tingley and Baker shared the course load in the sciences, with Baker teaching chemistry to sophomore students.  It was the first time a full laboratory course in chemistry was offered at Asbury.  During the next four years, Baker continued as an instructor. He was elected assistant treasurer of the faculty, and he presented his first convocation lecture in 1876 on "William Ellery Channing," Unitarian leader of the day.


While Baker served as an instructor at Asbury, he also attended the Indiana Medical College and earned the M.D. degree in 1879. In 1880 Dr. Baker was made Adjunct Professor in Science and in 1882 became Professor of Chemistry and Physiology. In the 1880-81 catalog, the department of "Natural Science-Chemistry" first appears with "Philip S. Baker, M.D., Acting" as the head of the department. In the next catalog (1881-82) chemistry is listed as a distinct department with Dr. Baker in charge, plus an assistant, William H. Charles.


In 1884, Baker was made the first full Professor of Chemistry and Head of the Department. In the late 1870's and early 1880's, many changes occurred in the sciences. In 1875, Asbury established at the Indiana Scientific Association. Its purpose was to further the study of natural history in the state and to subscribe to the leading scientific journals of the world. New instruments and equipment were acquired, including a gift from Indiana Governor Will Cumback of a Becker and Son's Analytical Balance sensitive to "I-20 Mgm," with a full load of 100 gms. In the fire of 1879, which destroyed West College, much of the apparatus and the scientific equipment was lost; but a portion of the minerals and the library collection of the Scientific Club was saved, because it was now in the "new building" (East College).


Under the guidance of Professor Baker, the new Department of Chemistry in 1882 offered Inorganic and Organic Qualitative Analysis the freshman year, Inorganic Quantitative Analysis the sophomore year, Organic Analysis the junior year, and two

terms of Original Work in the senior year. In 1881, for the first time, there was a chemistry course with the title, Organic Qualitative Analysis.


The fledgling science of chemistry began to attract students to its call. By 1890, Dr. Baker had eight advanced students reporting on journal papers describing topics, such as "Baking Powders," "Illuminating Gas," "Glass," "Ozone," "Sulfate of Iron and Inks," "The Benzene Theory," "Petroleum," and "Aluminum." In the decade of the 80's his life was indeed full. In 1881 he married Miss Luemma A. Allen of Putnam County, a junior in the University. They were to enjoy the next twenty years together.


Dr. Baker spent one semester at Harvard (1882-83) under J. P. Cooke, studying Quantitative Analysis and Mineralogy. In 1887 the Board of Trustees gave him a year and a half leave of absence (without pay) to study with Ira Remsen at Johns Hopkins (1888-89). During this time he authored a "Historical Sketch of Vapor Densities of Volatile Metallic Salts" and a "Historical Sketch of Perkins Synthesis." He also lectured at the Indiana Medical College in Indianapolis, where he had received the M.D. degree in 1879. A son, Ross Allen Baker, was born in 1886. He would follow his father to the Psi Phi Deke house, graduating with the Class of 1906; and he, too, would become a chemist and noted professor.


During the 1880's and 90's Dr. Baker began to gather about him in East College a number of young, eager students. In 1883 F. O. Cuningham won second class honors in chemistry and physiology. In 1884-85 laboratory assistants were M. M. Bachelder and Charles W. Farr (who would later become Professor of Natural Science at Southwest Kansas College).  By 1896 a major required nine courses in chemistry, covering General Chemistry, Analytical, and the Carbon Compounds (Dr. Baker did not believe the term Organic Chemistry was correct). A major would require six semesters of work, but according to the catalog, "A competent student will be able to follow his major as far as possible." In 1886-87 H. V. Nixon served as assistant in the laboratory, while in 1887-88 Wellington B. Johnson was an instructor and John L. Jackson, a Psi Phi Deke in the Class of 1889, was an assistant.


In 1894-96, a young Greencastle boy, George A. Abbott, a Psi Phi Deke in the Class of 1895 and DePauw’s oldest living alumnus in February, 1973, would become one of the first recipients of a Ph.D. from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  He assisted Dr. Baker in the organic laboratory, where they did "preparations and testing of marsh gas, chloroform, ether, alcohol, glycerine, glucose, benzene, some of the aniline dyes, carbolic acid, etc." Dr. Abbott became Head of the Department of Chemistry at the University of North Dakota in 1910 and taught there for 37 years.


One of Dr. Baker's last major students was Raymond F. Bacon, a Psi Phi Deke in the Class of 1899, and son of Charles E. Bacon, in the Psi Phi Deke class of 1878, who later received his Ph.D. at the University of Chicago and became Dean of the Graduate School of Chemistry at the University of Pittsburgh.


In 1895, Dr. Baker offered a course which was listed as having "no laboratory but which consisted of 65 experimental lectures to provide an introduction to those who wish to obtain a general knowledge of the subject …." No fee was required. He was a popular and conscientious teacher. In the 1899 Mirage he was credited with making chemistry a pleasure, and again in the 1902 Mirage (published in 1901 just before his death) it was noted that "to be in his classes a year is to love the subject".


During his last years, Dr. Baker’s health began to fail, reportedly from inhalation of chlorine. In 1967, Dr. George A. Abbott, who was Dr. Baker's student in 1895, and over 90 years of age at this time, wrote:

"For twenty years the DePauw catalog stated, 'At present the Chemistry Department is in the basement of East College,' an utterly unsatisfactory location, with low ceilings and almost no ventilation even through the so-called hoods. Dr. Baker, the best teacher I ever had, was a victim of this lab. He never regained normal health after an accidental inhalation of chlorine and lived only a few years." 


After years of teaching in inadequate facilities, Dr. Baker was to be rewarded with a new building. On January 7, 1901, a report of the Chancellor, William H. Hickman, announced that the first gift of $25,000 had been received by D. W. Minshall of Terre Haute for a new science laboratory. A Committee for Construction included Chancellor Hickman, Robert O'Hair of Greencastle, President Gobin, other members of the Board, and Dr. P. S. Baker.


Much of the initial planning of the building fell to Dr. Baker. But he was not destined to enjoy this building which he helped design. In late summer 1901, he traveled to Asheville, N.C., because of ill health, hoping to recover. However, he died in Asheville on September 2, 1901, at the age of 51. His funeral was on September 5 at the Greencastle College Avenue Methodist Church. As a former DePauw mathematics professor, Dr. Will Edington, might have said—"He was one of the giants of those days."


 On June 12, 1905, a bronze tablet in honor and memory of John Simison, alumnus in the class of 1879 and a physician at Romney, Indiana, and his wife, Harriet Eliza Agnew Simison, was dedicated by the DePauw Board of Trustees and Visitors in recognition of the generous gifts to DePauw by their children.


 On that June 12, 1905, dedication of this bronze tablet, a young man, Ross Allen Baker, entertained the assembled guests with a violin solo. The son of the late Professor of Chemistry Philip S. Baker, who had followed his father to membership in DKE, young Baker upon graduation, June 13, 1906, with a major in chemistry, had to decide between music or chemistry. He chose chemistry and became one of DePauw's most honored chemical educators, receiving the honorary D.Sc. from DePauw in 1937. In 1933-34 he served as chairman of the Division of Chemical Education of the American Chemical Society.



Excerpted from

A Sesquicentennial Historical Pamphlet


The Asbury Years: 1837-1987

By Donald J. Cook, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of Chemistry

September 1, 1986



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