Barker, H. A. (Horace Albert), 1907-2000

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Professor of biochemistry, University of California, Berkeley.

From the description of Horace Albert Barker papers, 1933-1997. (University of California, Berkeley). WorldCat record id: 64663063

Biographical Information

Horace Albert Barker was one of the most important microbiologists of the 20th century. During his career he contributed to several breakthroughs in the areas of oxidative assimilation by bacteria, the biological formation of methane, the carbon dioxide utilization of heterotrophic bacteria, the synthesis and degradation of lower fatty acids, and the fermentations of amino acids and purines. He was a member of the team that, in 1944, discovered the enzymatic steps that living cells take when they synthesize sucrose, and his work with the coenzyme B-12 earned him a nomination for the Nobel Prize in 1975.

Barker was born on November 29, 1907 in Oakland, California to Albert Charles and Nettie Barker (nee Hindry), who had migrated west to California from Maine and Colorado, respectively.

Barker entered Stanford University in 1925. By his third year, he had settled upon the sciences for his course of study, earning his AB in Physical Sciences in September of 1929. He stayed for a fifth year at the university, studying physical and organic chemistry, conducting his first research with Dr. Cornelis Barnardus van Niel and working as a teaching assistant in general physiology at the Hopkins Marine Station in Monterey. Dr. van Niel would be one of the primary influences on Barker's research. In 1933 Barker earned his PhD in Chemistry from Stanford University and soon moved to Holland to continue his studies with van Niel at the Technical University in Delft from 1935-1936.

In 1933 he married Margaret McDowell, with whom he had two daughters, Barbara Friede and Elizabeth Mark, and one son, Robert.

Barker was a popular lecturer, prolific publisher, and active in several departments at the University of California, Berkeley. He was appointed Instructor in Soil Microbiology and Junior Microbiologist in the Division of Plant Nutrition of the Agricultural Experiment Station at the University of California at Berkeley in 1936. Barker became a full professor of soil microbiology in 1946, chairing the Department of Plant Nutrition from 1949-1950. Barker moved to the Department of Plant Biochemistry after it was incorporated into the Department of Biochemistry in 1959 and chaired the department from 1962-1964. He remained active in the Department well into his eighties and became a professor emeritus in 1975. The Regents of the University of California honored him in 1988 by changing the name of the Biochemistry building to Barker Hall.

He was awarded the National Medal of Science in 1968 and was an elected member of both the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He was the recipient of two Guggenheim fellowships. Barker died on December 24, 2000 after a brief illness.

From the guide to the Horace Albert Barker papers, 1933-1997, (The Bancroft Library)

Role Title Holding Repository
Place Name Admin Code Country
Vitamin B12


Birth 1907-11-29

Death 2000-12-24



Ark ID: w6x10c03

SNAC ID: 59921899