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William Avery Baker (born in New Britain, Connecticutmarker on 21 October 1911 - died 9 September 1981) was a distinguished naval architect of replica historic ships and a maritime historian, who was curator of the Francis Russell Hart Nautical Museum at Massachusetts Institute of Technologymarker 1963-1981.

Early Life and Education

The son of William Elisha Baker and his wife Margaret MacDonald Sanderson, William A. Baker was educated at the Massachusetts Institute of Technologymarker, where he earned an S.B. degree in 1934 in the Department of Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering with a thesis on "Development of Catamaran Hulls" supervised by George Davis. On 2 May 1936, he married Ruth Stuart.

Professional career

In 1934, Baker joined the shipbuilding division of the Bethlehem Steel Corporation and became a registered professional engineer in the states of Californiamarker and Massachusettsmarker. Baker served with them until 1964, when he became curator of the Francis Russell Hart Nautical Museum. He was the compiler of plans and specifications for a number of historic Ship replicas, including Gjoamarker in 1948, Mayflower II in 1957, Adventure in 1970, and Maryland Dove in 1978.

He served as a member of the editorial advisory board of the American Neptune, 1952-1981; Mystic Seaport, 1973-1981. He was a Fellow and trustee of the Pilgrim Societymarker, Plimoth Plantationmarker, and a member of the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers, of which he was co-founder of the New England section in 1943 and served as secretary-treasurer, 1943-44, and chairman in 1957-58. He also served as secretary-treasurer of the Northern California section in 1949 and became an honorary member of the society in 1980. Among other organizations, he was a long-time member of the Hakluyt Society, the Society for Nautical Research and the Boston Marine Society. He was a founder and the first president of the North American Society for Oceanic History.

Published Works

  • The new Mayflower, her design and construction, by her designer. Illustrations by R.S. & W.A. Baker. Barre, Mass., Barre Gazette, 1958.


  • Colonial vessels; some seventeenth-century sailing craft. Illustrated by the author. Barre, Mass., Barre Pub. Co., 1962.


  • The engine powered vessel: from paddle-wheeler to nuclear ship. New York, N.Y. : Grosset & Dunlap, 1965.


  • Sloops & shallops Barre, Mass., Barre Pub. Co. 1966; Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1988.


  • The clipper ship. [Exhibition] Hayden Gallery, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, November 14 through December 2, 1966. [Cambridge, Mass.]: The Hayden Gallery, 1966.




  • A history of the first 75 years. Cambridge, M.I.T. Dept. of Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering, 1969.


  • C. J. A. Wilson’s Ships. With notes and comments by William A. Baker. Introd. by Richard B. Holman. Barre, Mass., Barre Publishers, 1971.








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