Remembered: Ian Baumgart 1920 – 2013

by Ross Tanner

The longevity of the Harkness fellowships means that sadly, from time to time, we have to farewell old friends and fellows.  

One such Fellow, Ian Baumgart QSO, died on Friday 27 September, 2013 at Riverleigh Rest Home in Lower Hutt.

Ian was the Harkness Representative in New Zealand for many years, and in that capacity served as the Chairman of the Selection Panel for many of us who were awarded Fellowships. He and his wife Nesta have been regular attendees at our annual dinners in recent years.

Ian began his career as a soil scientist at the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR). He was quickly promoted to head office in Wellington as Senior Principal Scientific Officer and later to Assistant Director General of the DSIR, where he played a significant role in determining the shape and direction of agricultural and biological research in New Zealand.

In 1962 he was awarded a Harkness Fellowship to study the administration of science at  the Brookings Institution in Washington DC. In 1973 he became New Zealand’s first Commissioner for the Environment.

Upon his retirement in 1980, Ian took on several UN and OECD contractual assignments which involved working in advancing environmental and scientific organization and management programs in various African and Pacific Island countries.

For many years he was an elder in the Presbyterian church, active in local charity activities, president of the Western Hutt Rotary Club, Chairman of the Animal Ethics Advisory Committee, Deputy Chairman of the National Research Advisory Council, and Chairman of the Toxic Substances Board . He was a recipient of the Royal Society of New Zealand Thompson Medal for service to New Zealand science, the Queen’s Jubilee Medal and the Queens Service Order (QSO).

His funeral service was held at St Mark’s Church, Woburn Road, Lower Hutt on Wednesday, 2 October, 2013.