August 20, 2014

Martha Baylor

Martha Barnes Baylor, 90, died at her home in Woods Hole on Friday.

Her husband, Edward R. Baylor, whom she married in 1939, died in 1994.

Dr. Baylor’s life spanned the era from before antibiotics to the mapping of the human genome. As a young woman, she wanted a career in journalism, however, while a student at the University of Illinois, she took her first course in developmental embryology and became deeply interested in the mechanisms of development. In order to understand embryology, she had to work with genetics and became one of the first women to work in that field. She received her doctorate from University of Illinois.

During World War II, Dr. Baylor worked with the first electron microscope. After the war, she and her husband did summer work at the Bermuda Biological labs.

By the time they were working at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, the structure of DNA had been discovered.

From Ann Arbor, the couple moved to Woods Hole where Dr. Baylor worked at the Marine Biological Laboratory and her husband worked at Woods Hole Oceano-graphic Institution.

The Baylors left Woods Hole for the University of New York at Stony Brook. The last paper that they published in Sci-ence, 1977, was on a joint research project on the distribution of airborne virus on water droplets thrown up by the surf.

They retired from Stony Brook and returned to Woods Hole where they remained involved in the scientific community and were strong supporters of human rights and social causes.

After her husband’s death, Dr. Baylor remained involved in science but continued to cultivate outside interests. In her 80th year, she announced that after reading about archeology for 60 years, she wanted to visit archeological sites and traveled to Greece and Italy, and the next year to Egypt.

She leaves two daughters, Chelsea Anne Baylor and Dr. Ethel Randall Baylor, both of Falmouth; a granddaughter, Holly Randall Ferreira; and nieces and nephews in Colorado, Texas, and Hawaii.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to the Cape Cod Visiting Nurse Association or to Doctors Without Borders.

Reprinted with permission of the Falmouth Enterprise.