Date of this Version
Journal of Mammalogy (2009) 90(5): 1,265-1,269.
Rollin H. Baker passed away on November 12, 2007, one day after reaching his 91st birthday. Rollin was a living legend, famous for his pioneering research on biogeography and natural history of Mexican mammals, especially rodents, for his contributions to the understanding of Michigan mammals, and for being a mentor and friend to all young, aspiring mammalogists. Rollin Baker’s career lasted way beyond his traditional retirement, and in his final months he was still active in the Texas Society of Mammalogists and in conservation issues in Texas. Indeed, when he was 89 years old he presented a guest lecture in mammalogy for appreciative graduate students at Texas Tech University. Rollin Baker’s legacy as a mammalogist is significant; he was a bridge between the original North American mammalogists and the post–World War II generation of mammalogists who created the academic field as we know it today. Rollin Baker helped promote the transition between pure traditional natural history and taxonomy to systematics and ecology, which now dominate the field. He also exemplified how teaching and research can be combined into an almost seamless activity. Rollin was mindful of his role as a professor and was keenly interested in the historical progression of mammalogy. Future students of the history of mammalogy will be able to study Rollin Baker’s ideas and career experiences in his autobiographical writing (Baker 2005), informal memoirs (Special Collections/Southwest Collection at Texas Tech University), or in his recorded oral recollections and films documenting his fieldwork in Mexico (also Special Collections/Southwest Collection at Texas Tech University).