David Warren Baker
MONARCH - David Warren Baker, 70, of Monarch, an earth scientist, died of cancer Monday at a Great Falls hospital.
His memorial service is 10 a.m. Saturday at First United Methodist Church in Great Falls, followed by a reception. Interment will take place at Hillcrest Lawn Mausoleum. Croxford Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.
He is survived by two sons, Erik C. Baker of Gainesville, Fla., and Andrew C. Baker of Anchorage, Alaska; and one daughter, Paula A. Baker of Ann Arbor, Mich. He was formerly married to Evelyn E. Herbstrith of Latrobe, Pa., from whom he was divorced in 1978.
He was preceded in death by his mother, Thora M. Baker, his father, Roy E. Baker, and his brother, John M. Baker, all interred at the Hillcrest Lawn Memorial Mausoleum in Great Falls.
David W. Baker was born in Great Falls, Mont., on Nov. 9, 1939. He graduated from Great Falls High School in 1957, served as the yearbook photographer, and was active in the Methodist Youth Fellowship and DeMolay.
His higher education included a Bachelor of Science degree in geology and geophysics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1961; diploma of natural science from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, 1964; a doctor of philosophy from the University of California at Los Angeles, 1969; and post-doctoral fellow at Yale University, 1970.
Dr. Baker was employed as an assistant professor of geological sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago Circle from 1970 to 1976, and as a research geologist for Gulf Oil Corporation in Pittsburgh, Pa., from 1976 to 1983.
In 1984, he returned to Montana, where he set up his own company, Little Belt Consulting Services in Monarch. He was active as a natural resources consultant from 1984 to 2009.
Dr. Baker's scientific accomplishments include contributions to knowledge of local and regional geology, in particular unraveling the pre-Cambrian plate tectonic history of Montana and adjacent states. Great Falls is located on a collision zone between two tectonic plates known as the Great Falls Tectonic Zone.
He also worked for many years on the origin of the Yogo sapphire deposit near Utica, Mont., and demonstrated that these sapphires, with their famous cornflower-blue color, formed at a greater depth than any other commercial sapphire deposit in the world.
Dr. Baker's publications on these subjects are found in the journal Northwest Geology, published by the Tobacco Root Geological Society; 50th Anniversary Symposium of Montana Geological Society; and "Guidebook of the Central Montana Alkalic Province-Geology, Ore Deposits and Origin," a special publication of the Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology.
Dr. Baker published numerous peer-reviewed papers in scientific journals, including Advances in X-ray Analysis, American Mineralogist, Contributions to Mineralogy and Petrology, Journal of Applied Physics, Journal of Geology, Journal of Geological Education, Journal of Structural Geology and Science.
Dr. Baker was a member of the American Geophysical Union, Montana Geological Society, Geological Society of America, Tobacco Root Geological Society, American Association for the Advancement of Science, Schweizerische Mineralogische und Petrographische Gesellschaft, and the National Center for Science Education.
Community service was very important to David Baker throughout his life. During his time in Illinois and Pennsylvania, he served as a Scoutmaster in the Boy Scouts of America for 12 years, and was a member of the Lions International service organization. In Montana, he taught geology courses for Park College at Malmstrom Air Force Base and conducted many field trips on the geology of Central Montana through the College of Great Falls and the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks.
In recent years, David drew particular enjoyment from his involvement in the annual Science and Engineering Fair for middle- and high-school students. He served as a local and regional judge, and mentored several students. He obtained special satisfaction as he witnessed the adventure and excitement of discovery in his students as they undertook their science fair projects. A wide range of topics was explored by these students.
In one project, a student used the scanning electron microscope to observe iron micrometeorites and nanodiamonds in a layer of sediment; this provided evidence of an extraterrestrial impact event leading to extinction of the mammoth and other large Ice-Age mammals. In a second project, a student used recent NASA imagery to explore the evidence for water on Mars; the floods and landslides on Mars were 10 times greater than the largest events on Earth. A third student project undertook the archeological excavation of a large mammal buried by a slump block in a steep coulee along the Missouri River; this allowed the students to reconstruct the sequence of events leading to the demise of the creature. A fourth student project investigated the best site for a 10-kilowatt wind turbine by erecting a 60-foot pole equipped with anemometers to log wind data for an extended period of time. In a fifth project, a student is studying the impact of climate change on large forest fires and avalanche behavior on the Rocky Mountain Front. A sixth student project investigated the coloration impacts of the cornflower-blue Yogo sapphire to human perception. A seventh student project involves identification of inclusions in Yogo sapphires.
Donations may be made to the Dr. David W. Baker Memorial Student-Science Fund, c/o Citizens for Clean Energy, 3417 4th Ave. S., Great Falls, MT 59405.
Condolences may be posted online at www.croxfordfuneralhome.com and/or www.gftribune.com/obituaries.
Published in Great Falls Tribune on December 30, 2009