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Mary Baker
September 26, 2021

Alumna Mary Baker, visionary leader in aerospace engineering, passes away

Written By: Staff


Mary Baker
Mary Baker

Mary Baker (BSEMA ’66), a visionary and inspirational leader in aerospace engineering, passed away on Sept. 7, 2021, at age 77 in Del Mar, California, after a nearly four-year struggle with multiple myeloma.

After graduating from the new Department of Engineering Mechanics at UW-Madison in 1966, she had an offer to work at Bell Labs in New Jersey but decided to pursue graduate studies in applied mechanics at Caltech. She was the only woman PhD student in engineering at Caltech in 1972, when she earned her PhD.

Baker went on to join Structural Dynamics Research Corporation in San Diego where she adapted SDRC technology developments to the aerospace industry. The company’s solutions were so well received that they quickly became 90% supported by aerospace and worked on every launch vehicle in the country.

At the time of her death, Baker was a technical director and board chairman at ATA Engineering, a San Diego testing and analysis company she co-founded in 2000. Her work influenced the design of the International Space Station, and she oversaw ATA’s involvement in the testing, analysis and design of two generations of Mars rovers developed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. ATA’s efforts helped ensure the successful Mars landings of the Curiosity rover in 2012 and the Perseverance rover in 2021.

Baker was a longtime member of the UW-Madison Department of Engineering Physics‘ Industrial Liaison Committee.

Read Baker’s obituary.