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John Macrae Christian Wellstood Baker 1927-2014

BakerMuch-loved Cardiff University academic, petrologist, extra-mural lecturer, chief examiner, alumni relations pioneer and pianist.

John Baker, as he preferred to be called, was born in Essex and schooled in Birmingham and graduated in Birmingham University in Geology in 1947 under Prof. Wills, whom he greatly respected.  He was then appointed at University College Cardiff to an Assistant lectureship under Prof. Cox.  He joined a very small department with only two other lecturers as an additional post to cope with the postwar bulge of student numbers, just before Cox retired in 1949, to be replaced by Professor J G C Anderson.  He was a Fellow of the Society for 66 years, elected in 1948.


John concentrated on teaching including mineralogy and petrology, but also making contributions to introductory geology, stratigraphy and, of course, to field classes.  He had a diffident, retiring character but was very popular with undergraduates as he was always approachable over problems.  He also taught extra-murally, including schoolteachers of geology.

John undertook research in petrology on the poorly exposed Precambrian rocks of SE County Wexford in Ireland, including the Carnsore Granite, and obtained a University of Wales PhD in 1965 for this work, which he published but did not continue.  In later years apart from teaching, he spent much time setting and marking external examinations, including practicals, in Geology for Welsh schools, which taught the subject much more widely than schools elsewhere in the UK.  These exams were organised by the Welsh Joint Education Committee (WJEC) and for some years John was their Chief Examiner in Geology.  Finding exactly comparable samples to go out to numerous schools at the same time was no trivial task!

He was a long-time member of the South Wales Geologists’ Association Group from its formation and Chairman (1968–70).  As a Senior Lecturer he went part-time in 1987, retiring fully in 1990 thereafter spending much time nursing his wife Elizabeth (née Richards), a 1948 Cardiff Geology graduate, who died in 1993.


John then turned his attention to Cardiff University geological alumni matters.  He compiled a list of former geology students totalling about 1600, corresponded with a surprising number of them, organised news circulars (1997-2004) and reunion dinners, before stepping aside when central administration, finally awaking to the importance of alumni matters, took over.  His last years were occupied with compiling information and writing about the 123-year history of the Cardiff Geology Department (now the School of Earth and Ocean Sciences).  This, on his death, was nowhere near completion.

John was interested in local history and vernacular architecture.  He loved travelling and used to caravan with the family around southern Europe, driving through central London in the early hours of the morning to shorten the time to reach Dover (before the M25 existed).  After his wife’s death, he and his companion went much further afield to China, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Egypt, Turkey, Canada, the USA and other places.  He was a pianist and a transport enthusiast - especially railways.

John Baker leaves a son, David, a daughter Lynette, whose help is acknowledged, and grand-daughter Rhian.

Bernard Elgey Leake


John M C W Baker BSc (Birmingham) PhD (Wales) FGS

Assistant Lecturer, Lecturer and Senior Lecturer (1947–1989).

Baker was born in Birmingham on February 1st 1927 and graduated in Geology in 1947 under L. J. Wills (1884–1979) in Birmingham University.  He was then appointed to an Assistant Lectureship,  concerned with mineralogy and sedimentary and metamorphic petrology and also making contributions to introductory geology and stratigraphy teaching.  This was a new post, obtained by Cox to cope with the increased student numbers after WW2.  Possibly on the suggestion of JGC Anderson, he undertook research on the petrology of the Precambrian rocks of SE County Wexford in Ireland, and presented his PhD on this topic to the University of Wales in 1965, it being completed while he was a lecturer.  Baker was Chairman of the South Wales Geologists’ Association Group 1968–70.

Baker did very little research in later years, concentrating on teaching, external examinations in Geology, setting and marking for the Welsh Joint Educational Committee (WJEC) and for some years was Chief Examiner. He retired as a Senior Lecturer in 1989 and then, after retirement and the death of his wife, on Prof. Rickard’s suggestion, he devoted himself to alumni matters.  Rickard had already started making contact with former Mining Geology students in Mineral Exploitation with Liesbeth Diaz’s help; but this was a completely neglected subject in Geology. 

Baker put great effort into contacting former students, initiating successful reunions and alumni circulars, which led to his being remembered by many past students, and for many years he was the last living link with the Cox years.  Alumni services were later taken over by the Alumni Relations Office of the University.  Baker also started to collect information about the history of the Department and School and this he continued until a few months before his death on 24 March 2014.  These papers he passed onto Leake in the last months of 2013 and they have been invaluable.


  • Baker, J W 1955. Pre-Cambrian rocks in Co. Wexford. Geological Magazine, 92, 63–
  • Baker, J W 1966. The Ordovician and post-Rosslare Series rocks in southeast Co. Wexford. Geological Journal, 5, 1–6.
  • Baker, J W 1968. The petrology of the Carnsore granite intrusion, Co. Wexford. Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy, 67B, 159–76.
  • Baker, J W 1970. Petrology of the metamorphosed Pre-Cambrian rocks of south-easternmost Co. Wexford. Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy, 69B, 1–20.