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Colleagues Mourn Donald Baird, Former SVP President


Dr. Donald Baird recently passed away.  He was a member of the SVP since 1949, was President of the Society from 1984-1985, and received the Honorary Membership Award in 1991.

The following is from Zhe-Xi Luo and Mary R. Dawson of the Section of Vertebrate Paleontology at Carnegie Museum of Natural History.

We wish to share the sad news that long-time Research Associate Dr. Donald Baird of CMNH Vertebrate Paleontology Section passed away recently.

Donald was a Pittsburgh native, and began his interest in vertebrate paleontology at Carnegie Museum.  After serving in the military during WW II, he received a BS degree at the University of Pittsburgh in 1948 and MS at the University of Colorado in 1949. He received his introduction to Paleozoic plants and animals of Western Pennsylvania and Ohio following his first trip to the famous Linton, Ohio, fossil locality in 1950.  Then he moved to Harvard University as a PhD student under Professor Alfred S. Romer, for whom he had provided fossil footprints from the Pittsburgh region. He received his PhD degree in 1955.  Don's paleontological heart remained with the Paleozoic fossils of the Ohio Valley, although he also moved on to research on Triassic and Cretaceous vertebrates of the northeast.

Beginning in 1957, Don entered the curatorial ranks in the paleontological collections at Princeton University, working with the late Professor Glenn Jepsen. He became the Director of Princeton's Museum of Natural History in 1973, a position he held until his retirement in 1988. Don returned to his roots in Pittsburgh following retirement. He was a Research Associate at Carnegie starting in 1984, an honorary position he also held at the American Museum of Natural History (New York) and the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia. He frequently visited our section up to 2000-2001, and supported numerous projects by our VP section.

Don was very active in paleontological research, both on the Carboniferous and on the Mesozoic of the eastern US. One of his many interests was in fossil footprints. Always one to see a little humor in his studies, Don even published a paper on the footprints of the infamous giant “Sasquatch!” He always delighted in studies on difficult vertebrate fossils from the Carboniferous of the Ohio Valley area, working for many years on these animals with Carnegie Curator David Berman.

While in Princeton, Don was an inspirational mentor to several youngsters who later moved on to careers in geosciences and paleontology, including Paul Olsen.  He also actively supported several junior colleagues earlier in their careers, such as Jack Horner, Kevin Padian, Neil Shubin and Hans Dieter-Sues.

Don was a dedicated member of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, financially supporting publication of the Society’s Bibliographies during their period of transition to an electronic format. He was elected Honorary Member of SVP for his long-time contribution to the science of vertebrate paleontology.

We extend our most sincere sympathies to his family, through whom his legacy lives on, as well as through a body of significant research and the outstanding fossils he collected for our museum.


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