Albert Vinicio Báez (/ˈbaɪ.ɛz/ BY-ez,[citation needed] Spanish: [biˈnisjo ˈβaes]; November 15, 1912 – March 20, 2007) was a Mexican-American physicist and the father of singers Joan Baez and Mimi Fariña,[1] and an uncle of John C. Baez. He made important contributions to the early development of X-ray microscopes, X-ray optics, and later X-ray telescopes.[2][3][4]

Early life

Albert Báez was born in Puebla, Mexico in 1912 to Alberto B. Báez and Thalia Báez.[5] His father was a Methodist minister and his mother was a social worker for the YWCA.[5] Albert was four when his father moved his family to the United States, first to Texas for a year and then to New York City. Albert, his sister Mimi and brother Peter were raised in Brooklyn where his father founded the First Spanish Methodist Church in New York.[1] During his youth, Baez contemplated becoming a minister, but he followed his interests in mathematics and physics instead.[6]

Báez earned degrees in mathematics and physics from Drew University (BS, 1933) and mathematics from Syracuse University (MS, 1935).[7][5] He married Joan Chandos Bridge, the daughter of an Episcopalian priest, in 1936. The couple became Quakers. The two had three daughters (Pauline, Joan, and Mimi), then moved to California: Báez enrolled at Stanford's doctoral program in physics. Baez taught at Wagner College from 1940 to 1944, and then moved to Stanford University in 1944 where he taught undergraduate courses in physics and mathematics.[8] In 1948, Báez co-invented, with his doctoral program advisor, Paul Kirkpatrick, the X-ray reflection microscope for examination of living cells.[9] This microscope is still used in medicine. Baez received his Ph.D. in physics from Stanford in 1950, and wrote his thesis titled "Principles of X-Ray Optics and the Development of a Single State X-Ray Microscope".[2] In 1948, while still a graduate student at Stanford, he developed concentric circles of alternating opaque and transparent materials to use diffraction instead of refraction to focus X-rays.[1] These zone plates proved useful and even essential decades later only with the development of sufficiently bright, high intensity, synchrotron X-ray sources.[10]
Academic life

As the Cold War intensified in the 1950s, Báez's talent was in high demand in the burgeoning arms race, yet his family's pacifism moved him to refuse lucrative defense industry positions, and he devoted himself instead to education and humanitarianism.[11]

From 1950 to 1956, he held a professorship at the University of Redlands, where he continued his X-ray research. Baez took leave for a year to work with UNESCO in 1951, and stationed his family in Baghdad[6] to establish the physics department and laboratory at Baghdad University. In 1956, Baez returned to Stanford and began to work with Jerrold R. Zacharias. Together, they worked on the Physics Science Study Committee, which was an effort to reshape the way physics was taught in high schools.[8] In 1959, Baez accepted a faculty position at MIT and moved his family to the Boston area. Baez worked on physics education with the Physical Science Study Committee, in particular, focused on producing films.[9] In 1960, working with the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, he developed optics for an X-ray telescope. Later that year he moved his family to Claremont, California, where he joined the faculty at Harvey Mudd College. From 1961 to 1967, he served as the first director of the science education program for UNESCO in Paris.[6][9] Here, he helped to develop projects in the basic sciences in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Arab states.[8]

Baez was the author of the textbook The New College Physics: A Spiral Approach (1967). He was the co-author of the textbook The Environment and Science and Technology Education (1987), and the memoir, A Year in Baghdad (1988), written with his wife Joan.[12] Báez made nearly a hundred films on physics from 1967 to 1974 for the Encyclopædia Britannica Educational Corp. Báez chaired the Commission on Education of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources from 1979 to 1983.[5]

On 22 June 1974, the British Open University awarded Baez an honorary degree as Doctor of the university.[13]

After his retirement, Báez occasionally delivered physics lectures and was the president of Vivamos Mejor/USA in 1986,[5] an organization founded in 1988 to help impoverished villages in Mexico. Its projects include preschool education, environmental projects, and community and educational activities. His lectures often included the "importance of the 3 Cs- curiosity, creativity, and compassion."[8] In 1991, the International Society for Optical Engineering awarded him and Kirkpatrick the Dennis Gabor Award for pioneering contributions to the development of X-ray imaging microscopes and X-ray imaging telescopes. In 1995, the Hispanic Engineer National Achievement Awards Corporation (HENAAC) established the Albert V. Baez Award for Technical Excellence and Service to Humanity. Báez himself was inducted into the HENAAC Hall of Fame in 1998.

Báez was the father of folk singers Joan Baez and Mimi Fariña who he encouraged to enjoy music and the arts, and of Pauline Bryan; he also was the uncle of mathematical physicist John Baez.[14] He had three grandchildren and one great-granddaughter. He died of natural causes on March 20, 2007, at age 94 in the Redwood City care home where he had lived for the prior three years. Báez had been divorced from his wife, Joan Bridge Baez, for several years, at the time of his death. According to the singer Joan Baez, speaking at the 2009 Newport Folk Festival, her parents married each other a second time before his death.[15] His obituary in the New York Times states that "his survivors include his wife, Joan Bridge Baez of Woodside, Calif."[16]

Baez, Albert V. (1967). The New College Physics: A Spiral Approach. W.H. Freeman and Company.


"Albert Baez, 94, Scientist and Singers' Father, Dies". The New York Times. Associated Press. 2007-03-27. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-03-11.
"días estranhos". Retrieved 2020-03-11.
Liberatore, Paul (March 20, 2007). "Noted scientist was father of Joan Baez and Mimi Farina". Marin Independent Journal.
"Hispanic Heritage Profile: Albert Baez". Retrieved 2023-06-08.
McMurray, Emily J., ed. (1995). Notable Twentieth-Century Scientists. Vol. I. Gale Research Inc. pp. 91–92. ISBN 0-8103-9182-1.
"Hispanic Heritage Profile: Albert Baez - 1912-2007 - Physicist, Inventor, Author, Humanitarian". Crafton Hills College. Retrieved 2020-10-15.
Mellada, Carmela (Spring 1991). "Professional Profile: Albert Baez". The Hispanic Engineer: 23.
Thompson, Al; Castro, George (2007). "Albert Vinicio Baez". Physics Today. 60 (11): 75–76. Bibcode:2007PhT....60k..75T. doi:10.1063/1.2812133. Retrieved 2023-06-08.
"National Society of Hispanic Physicists - Albert Baez". National Society of Hispanic Physicists. Archived from the original on 2020-10-17. Retrieved 2020-10-15.
Levy, Dawn (May 16, 2007). "Memorial service set May 24 for physicist, X-ray optics pioneer Albert Baez". Stanford University News Service.
"John Daniel & Company - Backlist Books". Archived from the original on 2021-01-15. Retrieved 2020-10-15.
"Honorary Degrees Awarded" (PDF). The Open University. p. 1. Archived from the original (PDF) on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 5 September 2015.
Fimrite, Peter (2007-03-25). "Albert Baez -- scientist, author, father of Joan Baez". SFGATE. Retrieved 2023-06-08. -- see the intro to Forever Young, which she says she sang at her parents' second marriage ceremony.

"Albert Baez, 94, Scientist and Singers' Father, Dies". The New York Times. March 27, 2007.

Further reading

Albert Baez bio on Mimi Farina website Archived 2011-07-16 at the Wayback Machine
Science and technology discoveries, 1948
Baez, Albert V.; Baez, Joan (1988). A Year in Baghdad. J. Daniel. ISBN 9780936784380. OCLC 17875340.
HENAAC Hall of Fame Inductees
Fimrite, Peter (March 25, 2007). "Albert Baez -- scientist, author, father of Joan Baez". The San Francisco Chronicle.
Former Harvey Mudd College Faculty Member Albert Baez Dies at Age 94
Title: Albert Vinicio Baez and the promotion of science education in the developing world 1912-2007, Fernando Reimers, UNESCO.

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