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
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.
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.
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).
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
of Original Work in the senior year. In 1881, for the first time, there
was a chemistry course with the title, Organic Qualitative Analysis.
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.
Baker spent one semester at Harvard (1882-83) under J. P. Cooke,
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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".
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:
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."
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.
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."
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
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.
Sesquicentennial Historical Pamphlet
AT DEPAUW UNIVERSITY,
Asbury Years: 1837-1987
Donald J. Cook, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of Chemistry