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Ira Baldwin, Bacteriologist And Former CALS Dean, Dies At 104

Baldwin, professor emeritus of bacteriology and former dean of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, helped discover bacteria that improved crop yields. A World War I veteran, he held several top posts at the University of Wisconsin during a career on campus that spanned four decades.

Baldwin, who enrolled at UW as a graduate student in 1925, retired in 1966. In later years, he took an interest in promoting agriculture in developing countries.

Baldwin received the agriculture college”s 1997 Distinguished Service Award, given annually for exceptionally meritorious contributions to the university and Wisconsin. Former colleagues recall Baldwin as a quiet, self-effacing leader who built an impressive record of service.

“He was an exceptional microbiologist who helped discover, for example, which bacteria improve crop yields,” former agriculture dean Neal Jorgensen said in presenting the 1997 award. Jorgensen met Baldwin in 1960 and corresponded with him for many years after his retirement. “His skill as an administrator and the respect others had for him brought him a series of administrative promotions and tasks in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s.”

Born in Oxford, Indiana in 1895, Baldwin served as a second lieutenant in the field artillery in World War I. He received his bachelor”s and master”s degrees in agriculture from Purdue University in 1919 and 1921, respectively.

At Wisconsin, Baldwin”s scientific interests included general and soil microbiology, industrial fermentation and microbial physiology. Along with co-authors Edwin B. Fred and Elizabeth McCoy, Baldwin wrote “The Root Nodule Bacteria of the Leguminosae,” a pioneering treatise on bacteria that make it possible for legumes, such as alfalfa, clover and soybeans, to take nitrogen from the air and use it for growth.

During World War II, Baldwin was a consultant to both the Army and Navy and conducted research on tropical diseases. He was also among a national group of scientists that began to explore the frontiers of biological warfare.

Baldwin served as chairman of the bacteriology department (1941-44), dean of the graduate school (1944-45), and dean of the college of agriculture (1945-48). Then-UW President Edwin B. Fred appointed Baldwin the university”s vice president for academic affairs, a post he held for 10 years, until 1959.

Baldwin served as special assistant to the president until his 1966 retirement. Baldwin”s interest in agriculture and developing countries continued after his retirement. During 1964-68 he directed a nine-university study of efforts to build institutions that serve rural development and agriculture. From 1968-71, he administered another multi-university effort, this one to improve agricultural education, research and public service in Indonesia.

Baldwin lived in Tucson, Ariz., with his wife of 45 years, Ineva Reilly Meyer Baldwin. His wife was assistant to the dean of women at the university in 1941-42, and assistant dean of the College of Letters and Science during 1946-54.

A memorial service is scheduled Saturday, Aug. 21, at 11 a.m. at the Chapel of St. Mark”s Presbyterian Church, Tucson. A memorial also is tentatively planned in Madison at First Congregational Church at 1 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 26.

The family asks that memorials be made to the University of Wisconsin Foundation-Ira Baldwin Memorial, P.O. Box 8860, Madison, Wis. 53708-8860.