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Obituary: Alan Baker - full obituary

Very sadly, Dr Alan Baker, former Senior Lecturer in the Department of Metallurgy, died on 18 January 2008, after a long illness.

Alan Baker was born in 1935. Having been a pupil at King Edward VIII School in Kings Lynn, he went up to Peterhouse, Cambridge, in 1954, to read Natural Sciences, specialising in Metallurgy. Graduating in 1957, he remained at Cambridge to complete a PhD (awarded in 1961) on the microstructure and mechanical properties of certain types of steel. His supervisor was his later head of department at Leeds, Professor Jack Nutting. Following a period of postdoctoral research in Cambridge, Alan Baker moved to the United States in 1962 to take up a position in the Applied Research Division of the US Steel Corporation, at Monroeville in Pennsylvania. Here, his flair for experimental techniques, together with his qualities of stamina and perseverance in the laboratory, were put to good use in his successful supervision of a research group engaged in the study and development of high-strength steels. Several important papers emerged from the work of the group.

Alan Baker returned to this country in 1965, taking up a post of Lecturer in the Department of Metallurgy in August of that year. He displayed a ready facility and enthusiasm for academic life, taking a very active part from the outset in departmental affairs in the round. An excellent teacher, he was able to impart his mastery of his subject to his students at all levels with clarity and ease. His own research in the field of physical metallurgy, and in the application of electron metallographic techniques in particular, continued to make outstanding progress, and the results appeared in a range of leading journals. During Dr Bakers time in the Department, the equipment available to support his research increased very considerably in scale, sophistication and complexity and he was at the forefront of successful funding bids to the Science Research Council and the subsequent procurement, installation application and operation of the demanding new technology. Promoted to Senior Lecturer in 1972, he enjoyed an international reputation for his work and was much in demand as a consultant. He was invited to undertake a number of overseas projects under the auspices of organisations including the British Council and the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation. Closer to home, he was prominently involved in the activities of the local branch of the Royal Microscopical Society, serving for a time as its chair.

Within the department, Alan Bakers advice over a broad swathe of metallurgical issues was keenly sought and appreciated. Commenting admiringly on Dr Bakers fiercely analytical mind and wide reading, a colleague added in my experience, a lightly described problem would be immediately grasped, possibly followed by quickly formulated forensic questions for clarification, and then solved with a rapid response, smacking almost of impatience, and always eminently sensible.

Alan Baker took early retirement from his post in 1991, but his ability and experience continued to be available to the School of Materials during the three years he then spent as Senior Fellow.

Alan Baker is survived by his second wife, Claire, and by his son, John, and daughter, Julia.

The funeral service will be held at Lawnswood Cemetery and Crematorium at 10.20 on Monday 4th February 2008, and will be followed by a woodland burial at Lawnswood. There are to be family flowers only; donations may be made to the Alzheimers Society.

In memory of Dr Alan Baker, the flag will be flown at half-mast on the Parkinson Building on the day of the funeral.

Published: 28 January 2008