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BAKER, Fellon of the Royal
and Anliquu rian Fructies, and of the foriety
for the Cncouragement Arto, Manufacture, and Commerce.
Author of "The Microscope made easy"
Born May 8.1198, died Nov." 25.1774.
Publisha by J. Nichols & Son Jan?1.1812.
Office. I was born May 8th, 1698, in Chaneery Lane, where my father resided, to be near the Chancery Office. -My father died when I was very young; and from about four years old, I was brought up by my father's mother (Mrs. Amey Lock.) On February 17th 1713, I was placed, at my own particular request, with Mr. John Parker, bookseller in Pall Mall; an honest, good-natured man, who treated me with the utmost kindness, and made the seven years I continued with him as agreeable a part of life as any I have known.-On April 26th 1720, I took leave of good Mr. Parker, and went to Enfield, on an invitation from Mr. John Forster, an eminent Attorney, who was my relation by marriage.
- My visit here was intended only as an amusement for about a month, after a confinement of seven years; but Providence so ordered, that I continued in this family till my marriage. - For, this gentleman having a daughter (Miss Jane Forster) born deaf and consequently dumb, and at that time about eight years old; Heaven put into my thoughts a method of instructing her to read, write, understand and speak, the English language; which communicating to her father, he intreated me to make a trial, and from that time would never part with me, till I had perfected her in the language, and taught her not only to read, write, and speak it readily, but likewise to understand the speech of others by sight, and be able to hold a regular conversation with them upon most subjects." —Another daughter and a younger son of Mr. Forster's labouring under the same unfortunate defects, were afterward under his care, and received the same benefit *. In the
* Mr. Baker succeeded so well with these two young ladies, his first pupils (Miss Jane and Amey Forster), that they were well qualified in all the parts of the best female education, and possessed every elegant and domestic accomplishment. So capable were they of the politer instructions, that they appeared with advantage in public assemblies. They were not long since living in Peterborough. Their elder brother was bred to the Church, was D.D.and rector of Elton co. Huntingdon. Another VOL. V.
prosecution of this valuable and difficult undertaking, Mr. Baker was indeed eminently successful; and all his pupils bore the best testimony to the ability and good effect of his instructions *.
On April 30th 1729 he married Sophia, youngest daughter of the famous Daniel De Foe, by whom he had two sons, David-Erskine, nanied after his godfather the Earl of Buchan, born January 30th 1730; and Henry, born February 10th 1734; both of whom he survived. On the 29th of January 1740, Mr. Baker was elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries; and on the 12th of March following, the same honour was conferred upon him by the Royal Society. In 1744, Sir Godfrey Copley's gold medal was bestowed upon him, for his microscopical experiments on the crystallizations and configurations of saline particles. This medal was presented to him by Sir Hans Sloane, the only surviving trustee of Sir Godfrey Copley's donation, at the recommendation of Martin Folkes, esq. the President, and of the Council of the Royal Society. Having led a very useful and honourable life, he died on the 25th of November 1774, being then in his 77th year. His wife died in 1762; and he left one only grandson William Baker ut, who was born February 17th 1763, and to whom he bequeathed the bulk of his fortune, which he had principally acquired by his profession of instructing the deaf and dumb. It is much to be regretted that Mr. Baker
brother was the late Mr. Serjeant Forster, who left, by a daughter of the late Sir John Strange, Master of the Rolls, three daughters.
* His pupils were very numerous; among them were- The Honourable Lewis Erskine, a son of the Earl of Buchan; Lady Mary and Lady Anne O'Brien, daughters of the Earl of Inchiquin; the Earl of Sussex, and his brother Mr. Yelverton; the Earl of Haddinton ; a son of Sir William Heathcote; the Earl of Londonderry;, and many others. It is doubted whether any of his pupils be now living.
+ The Reverend William Baker, LL. B. at this time (1812) rector of Lyndon and South Luffenham, in the county of Rutland,
should have suffered his art to die with him *. It is believed that his method was entirely his own, and he had certainly brought it to great perfection.
By his Will, among other bequests, he 100l. to the Royal Society, the interest of which was to be applied for an annual oration or discourse on some part of natural history or experimental philosophyt, His printed books (but not MSS. 6) curiosities, and collections of every sort, he directed should be sold. His fine collection of natural history and antiquities were sold by auction March 13th 1775, and the nine following days. He was buried, as he had directed, in the Church-yard of St. Mary-le-Strand, within which Church he wished that a tablet should have been erected to his memory. Owing however to some particular regulations annexed to the new Churches under the Act of Queen Anne, of which this is one, leave to that effect could not be obtained.
Mr. Baker was a constant and useful attendant at the meetings of the Royal and Antiquarian Societies, and in both was frequently chosen one of the Council. He was peculiarly attentive to all the new improvements which were made in Natural Science, and very solicitous for the prosecution of them. Several of his communications are printed in the Philosophical Transactions g; and besides the papers
* Dr. Johnson, in his “Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland," speaking of the College at Edinburgh for the deaf and dumb, says, “I do not mention the instruction of the deaf us new; it was lately professed by Mr. Baker, who once flattered me with hopes of seeing his method published."
† Some of the most distinguished members of the Royal Society have delivered these discourses.' And very recently Professor Davy has announced and described his luminous and most important chemical discoveries, in the Bakerian Lecture.
His large and curious collection of manuscripts, consisting chiefly of an extensive correspondence on literary and philosophical subjects, and all his papers used in the instruction of the deaf and dumb, are now in the possession of his grandson the Rev. William Baker.
§ Phil. Trans. Vol. XLI. p. 441. 448. 503. 655. Vol. XLII. p. 143. 416.616. Vol. XLIII. p. 35. 77. 331.520. Vol. XLIV.