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In Memoriam: Dale B. Baker (1920-2005)

(Chemical Information Bulletin vol. 58, No. 1, Spring 2006)


We are mourning the passing of Dale B. Baker, the CAS Emeritus Director, on December 11, 2005, at the age 85.

His career at CAS was remarkable as he started as part-time office boy in 1939, while attending the Ohio State University, returned to CAS as an Assistant Editor in 1946, and rose to become the CAS Director in 1958, the post he held for 28 years until his retirement in 1986. For the period 1983-1986, he was also the ACS Deputy Executive Director.

The official obituaries have been published earlier. Here, it might be of interest for CINF members to summarize Dale Baker's major achievements and the honors he received, and to acknowledge those directly related to CINF activities.

  • 1942 B.Ch.E., Ohio State University
  • 1948 M.Sc., Ohio State University
  • 1961 President of the National Federation of Abstracting and Indexing Services (NFAIS)
  • 1968 Technical Person of Year Award, Columbus Technical Council
  • 1974 Miles G. Conrad Award, NFAIS
  • 1975 President, American Society for Information Science (ASIS)
  • 1979 Patterson-Crane Award, ACS Columbus and Dayton Sections
  • 1983 Award of Merit, ASIS
  • 1986 Herman Skolnik Award, CINF
  • 1986 Honorary Doctorate, Ohio State University
  • 1993 Distinguished Service Award, ACS
  • 2003 Ohio Science and Technology Hall of Fame

The earliest paper by Dale before the Division dates back to the 130th ACS National Meeting in Atlantic City in 1956, when he presented a "pictorial inspection of Chemical Abstracts in its new building" within the symposium commemorating the 50th anniversary of Chemical Abstracts. That was the building on the campus of the Ohio State University, which CAS occupied until 1964.

A quarter of a century later, Dale was a speaker at the 184th ACS National Meeting in Kansas City in 1982 at a special symposium on "Communication and the Future of Science," commemorating the 75th anniversary of CAS. He spoke on the evolution of CAS strategy.

One of the memorable ACS National Meetings, at which Dale presented a paper on the "History of Abstracting at CAS", was the 177th ACS National Meeting (joint with the chemical societies and institutes of Japan, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand) in Honolulu in 1979. The meeting coincided with the United Airlines strike, which prevented some would-be participants from attending, and those who managed to attend returned home with a considerable delay.

The citation for the 1979 Patterson-Crane Award recognized Dale's "distinguished service to the chemical profession as planner, manager and administrator in the field of chemical documentation and publishing; leadership in abstracting and indexing the world's chemical literature, in pioneering automated methods of chemical information processing, and in promoting international sharing of scientific and technical information." In conjunction with this Award, a symposium on "Science Information in Today's Society" took place as part of the 11th ACS Central Regional Meeting in Columbus.

While originally not part of the CINF's sessions, the CAS Open Forums, which ran from 1963 to 1975, were carefully coordinated with Divisional activities. The open forums were eventually replaced by joint sessions of CINF with the ACS Society Committee on CAS. Perhaps the most contentious audience that Dale had to face was at the 188th ACS National Meeting in Philadelphia in 1984 when many CINF members complained about CAS not providing the CA abstracts to online vendors.

Dale was awarded the 1986 Herman Skolnik Award for "leadership of Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS) in its move from the conventional abstracting and indexing service of the 1950s to the world's premier automated storage and retrieval system through courageous embarkation on new path and approaches including promotion of international sharing of scientific and technical information, which provided direction for the entire information industry." His Award address at the 191st ACS National Meeting in New York in 1986 was on the subject of "Chemical Information Across International Borders - Problems and Solutions."

Dale has always been keenly interested in the international cooperation which was not surprising, since CAS at the time he become its Director had some 1400 volunteer abstractors on its roster, many of them outside of the U.S.

This interest was manifested over the years by his participation in international organizations and his presenting and publishing numerous papers on the growth of chemical literature worldwide, on the challenges in chemical information processing, and on the coordination and cooperation among domestic and foreign information services.

To this end, Dale visited VINITI, the giant Soviet national and centralized information organization, four times in 1959, 1963, 1967, and 1973, as a member of the official U.S. delegation with a purpose of critically assessing and comparing the status of the scientific and technical information in the U.S.S.R and the U.S. The U.S. at that time had no national plans, policies, or priorities for information systems development, and debates raged on whether the U.S. should have an all encompassing national chemical information system.

Apart from his interaction with foreign chemical societies, notably those of the United Kingdom, West Germany, France, and Japan, he participated in the activities of the Abstracting Board of the International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU/AB), United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

I wish to end on personal note. I have known Dale for almost 42 years. I met him when he was already the CAS Director. Yet, he was always kind and interested enough to discuss matters of common interest, many of them related to international cooperation.

We will miss Dale, who was a professional of highest excellence, and a mentor and friend to many of us.

W. Val Metanomski, CINF Archivist/Historian