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Robert Hardy Baker

August 29, 1945 - February 12, 2009


[This profile has been written by Ashley Nugent, Bob's older sister, in collaboration with our classmate and Bob's good friend, John E. Some of the material was included in recent emails sent to John and written by Bob himself.]



Bob Baker was born to Robert Hardy and Mary (Sill) Baker in Jersey City, New Jersey, on August 29, 1945. He grew up in New Jersey and in Westboro, Massachusetts.

At Westboro High School, Bob played drums in our jazz band, he was an end on the football team all through high school, was president of the Honor Society, was in the Senior Play, and was a member of the Science Quiz Team. We voted him "The Boy Most Likely to Succeed," and we were right.


Bob was a member of the 1963 Science Quiz Team


He attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he studied photography under Minor White and graduated in 1970 with a Bachelor's degree in Humanities and Science.

[Bob described this part of his life in an email to John:]

I dropped out of MIT in mid junior year,  got rejected by the draft on a medical technicality, and then moved myself to Washington, DC, to embark on life (I guess). I found a job as a typist at the UPI (news) bureau, where I would take calls from the reporter at the White House, Pentagon, etc., type it up and fling it over to the editor paragraph by paragraph -- if he hadn't already grabbed it out of my typewriter. It was pretty exciting, felt like being at the center of the world. In the quiet times, I would write any little local story I could, so they eventually made me a reporter and shipped me off to Hartford to earn my spurs. Two years later I was ready to go back and finish at MIT, which I did -- in Humanities.)


After college Robert taught photography at the Art Institute of Boston and then joined the Polaroid Corporation as a writer and editor. In 1977 Robert was hired by Ansel Adams and moved to California. Robert co-authored the series of books on how to make photographs, The New Ansel Adams Photography Series, and Examples: The Making of 40 Photographs. These books have sold several hundred thousand copies. He was also director of the Ansel Adams Workshops in Yosemite National Park for two years.



[Bob wrote in another email to John:]


By then I wanted to be a photographer (how young I was!) so I started doing some small freelance projects in Boston. To make ends meet (I was married -- it was a four-year event, my college marriage), I started teaching photography classes at the Art Institute of Boston. Three years later I got hired at Polaroid as editor of a technical photography magazine they published. That is where I met Ansel Adams, who was a consultant to Polaroid. He was trying to revise his Polaroid Manual, which was out of date by then, and I started sending him some feedback on his drafts (no one else seemed to know what to do with them). So he hired me full time and moved me to California (February of '77). I worked for him rewriting his technical series on how to make photographs. When we finished in '84, I looked around for other writing work, and found it in the fledgling high tech world -- the IBM PC was just out and Apple IIs were very popular.

At some point, after Ansel and at the start of my high tech life, I switched from Bob to Robert as a spur of the moment thing, and have left it at that, though I answer to either name.

I worked for a couple of high tech companies, married again (it lasted 8 years), moved to Santa Cruz, more work as a tech writer/editor/manager for Borland and two other companies. On the personal side, I fell in love with an English woman living out here, and we lived together for two years. She died in '03. So I'm living alone in a too-big house with an elderly dog. But I'm feeling mostly at peace these days, contented, sometimes philosophical, and definitely retired.


In 1985 Robert entered the burgeoning world of software documentation as a technical writer. Over the years he worked as a senior technical writer, project manager, publications manager, and vice president, holding positions at Lifetree Software, Borland International, Starfish Software, and Agile Software. He did contract work for a number of other companies. In 2004 he retired to devote himself to his many interests.

Robert was a gifted writer and faultless editor. He brought to his work a love of literature and the arts as well as an understanding of technical issues. His colleagues esteemed him for his patience, bonhomie, and dry sense of humor.

Robert had an affinity for languages and a special interest in the French language and culture. He relished polishing his language skills by taking courses and traveling often to France. Music, particularly music composed for the piano, was another passion of Robert's, and he possessed a very keen ear. In midlife he bought a piano and learned to play it. He also sang in the Cabrillo College Chorus, tackled courses in music theory, and served on the board of the Santa Cruz Chamber Players. All brought joy to his life and added to his trove of friends.


Robert Hardy Baker of Santa Cruz, California, died at his home Thursday, February 12th, 2009, following a long illness. Robert was a loving friend and family member, a kind and quiet soul, and a font of knowledge. He leaves behind his step-daughter Danielle Levine of San Francisco, sisters Joanna Baker and Ashley Nugent of Kansas City, MO, brother Frank Baker of Raleigh, NC, and many friends in many places. We mourn his passing and miss him greatly.


Our thanks to Ashley Nugent, Bob's older sister, and to Frank Baker, Bob's younger brother, who supplied the above information.





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This page added 3/29/09
Last updated 9/10/11



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