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News from City, University of London

A tribute to Dr Gary Baker

by Hollie Jenkins

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"It is with great sadness that I report the death of Dr Gary Baker (aged 59), a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Optometry and Visual Science, City University London.

"I first came across Gary on the rugby field almost 40 years ago when we were both undergraduates at the University of Sussex. After obtaining a BSc in Experimental Psychology in 1976, he briefly left academia to manage a restaurant on the Kings Road, Chelsea. During this time, when rugby was still an amateur game, he played at a level that would now be professional in his beloved Wales. Requiring more of an intellectual challenge, Gary soon returned to science, obtaining an MSc in Neurophysiology in 1981 and a PhD from London Guildhall University on 'the gustatory system of cypinoid fish' in 1987.

"Gary's attention then turned to the more mainstream area of mammalian vision. He spent a total of 12 years in the world-leading laboratories of Ray Guillery and Ian Thompson at the University of Oxford and two years with Michael Stryker at the University of California, San Francisco. During this time he cemented his own international reputation, where his work, in particular, on the organisation and development of the mammalian retinal pathways (mainly with Ben Reese) and on changes in conduction velocity along individual nerve axons (with Michael Stryker) remain gold-standards in their fields.

"Gary joined City University London in 1999. From his first days he fully engaged with all activities and soon acquired a reputation as an inspired and inspiring teacher of ocular and visual anatomy and function. His research in visual neuroscience (axonal development) was well recognised within the Optometry Department and held in extremely high esteem.

"He was enormously popular among our students. Gary was a frequent nominee for the Student Voice Award, voted for by the student body, which he deservedly won in 2009.

"Gary also made significant contributions to the running of the undergraduate and postgraduate Optometry programmes at City. He took on the role of BSc Optometry Programme Director in 2004, later transferring his energies to the task of coordinating the widening of student participation via the Foundation Degree in Ophthalmic Dispensing, run in collaboration with City & Islington College. Many students have benefitted from his gentle, but firm, guidance over the years.

"Despite his considerable achievements, Gary was a very modest man. I greatly appreciated his intelligence, straight talking and friendship. The space created by his parting - both physical (he was a big man) and intellectual - will be impossible to fill. He was not only a great academic, but a great teacher and friend. He is deeply missed by colleagues and students alike.

"He leaves behind Maxine, his wife, and two daughters, Bonny and Holly, of whom he always spoke with great affection."

Ron Douglas
Professor of Visual Science, City University London

Dr Gary Baker's family have set up a tribute page in support of the Great Ormand Street Children's Hospital. All donations made will go towards equipment for the Ophthalmology department. The page can be accessed here

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