Photo of William O. Baker

William O. Baker

  • National Medal of Science
  • Chemistry

For pioneering studies of the complex relationships between the molecular structures and physical properties of polymers, for a distinguished record of leadership in the combined disciplines of science and engineering, and for distinguished service to government and education.

When you’ve held 11 patents, advised presidents, led Nobel Prize winners and cracked Soviet codes you might think you deserve to stop there. William O. Baker, however, never forgot his singular focus to use science to better humanity; he would continue working towards that goal even after his formal retirement. As a research scientist at Bell Laboratories, Baker was part of the team that created synthetic rubber. He would be promoted several times at Bell Labs to ultimately become Vice President of Research. Under his tenure, Bell Laboratories made remarkable advancements including laying the groundwork for the digital age, satellite communication, improvements in semiconductors and wireless technology in cellular devices.

While his work directly impacted private company endeavors, he also served as a key advisor to the U.S. government. His seamless transition from private to public work would make him a well-respected figure in the scientific community at every level.

He served five decades as a national security expert who would also advise on intelligence gathering. His expertise would serve administrations from Truman to George W. Bush, directly advising Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon and Reagan.

By Melissa Ayala