Q: Hey kids, what does your school have in common with seashells, diplomas and tigers?A: Dr. Fred Baker. He's the inspiration for our school. and a driving force behind some of modern San Diego's greatest treasures: the San Diego Zoo, Scripps Institution of Oceanography and San Diego State University. He served on San Diego City Council and on school boards.
He collected seashells from all over the world. In fact, he was a world-renowned conchologist, one who studies shells. His collection can be seen in another great San Diego treasure, the Museum of Natural History.
He was born in 1854, in Ohio and studied at New York's prestigious Cornell University. He studied engineering but switching to natural history. His life -- and San Diego's future -- changed forever when he joined a scientific expedition through Mexico, Central America and South America. He spent four years studying all manner of remote places. He returned home and in 1880 earned his medical degree from University of Michigan.
Soon after he married Dr. Charlotte Lebreton Johnson. She was a physician in an era when few women went to college, only 30 years after the first woman graduated from medical school in America. The Bakers practiced medicine in Ohio and New Mexico before settling in San Diego in 1888.
In 1911, Dr. Baker joined a Stanford University expedition to Brazil where he discovered more than 35 new species of mollusks.
Throughout his life he traveled extensively through Asia, Hawaii, Mexico and Central and South America. His wife died in 1938, and he died soon afterward. He was 84, and he left behind a legacy woven into the very fabric of San Diego.