Remembering Allan Baker

Posted: December 2, 2014 - 12:29 , by Cathy Dutton
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Allan Baker

Allan John Baker (1943 - 2014) was hired by the ROM as Assistant Curator of Ornithology in 1972. He became Associate Curator and Head of the Ornithology Department in 1976, and was promoted to full Curator in 1981. In 1995, he became head of the ROM’s newly established Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation Biology, and subsequently became head of the Department of Natural History in 2004. Throughout his 42-year career here, he was actively involved in many aspects of ROM life, serving on numerous committees, contributing to gallery and exhibit initiatives, and participating in the Run for the ROM, both in its original format in the 1980s-90s as a ROM Hare, and in its new format under the ScotiaBank Toronto Waterfront Marathon. Allan was also a cross-appointed Professor at the University of Toronto, beginning his career there in 1976. He was appointed as an Assistant Professor of Zoology 1984, became a full Professor in 1989, and throughout his career supervised 29 graduate students and 14 Post-doctoral Fellows.

Allan played an important role in the ultimate modernization of avian systematics not just at the Museum but in the global ornithological community. He established an internationally renowned research program in avian evolution, pioneering several methodologies that resulted in landmark papers and put him at the forefront of his field. He was also heavily involved in the education, taxonomy and conservation of migratory shorebirds in the Western Hemisphere and endangered kiwis in his native New Zealand. His research program took him all over the world, from Africa to Alaska, from the Canadian Arctic to Argentina. He published 188 papers in peer-reviewed journals, numerous popular articles and books. His most recent research paper on the evolution of genes that control feather development was just published in Molecular Biology and Evolution, and is garnering much attention in the popular media. Truly a giant in his field, he was at the top of his game until his untimely death.
Allan is survived by his wife, Sue, and his two sons Daniel and Ben and their partners.

Today we celebrate the life of our colleague and ROM pioneer.  Allan's life was centered on the museum for over 40 years and we encourage you, his friends and family, to share your remarkable memories.