Albert Báez

Written by Donnell Layne

Physicist, Inventor, Author, Humanitarian

November 15, 1912 – March 20, 2007

Albert Báez was born on November 12, 1912 in Puebla, Mexico. At the age of two his family moved to the United States where his father worked as a minister at the First Spanish Methodist Church. 

He decided to pursue his interests in mathematics and physics and earned a bachelor’s degree from Drew University in 1933 and a master’s degree from Syracuse University in 1935. In 1950 he earned his PhD in physics from Stanford University, where he and Dr. Paul Kirkpatrick invented the X-ray reflector microscope, the tool that launched the field of X-ray optics. 

After completing his education, he spent some time working with the United Nations Education, Science and Culture Organization (UNESCO). He was stationed in Baghdad teaching introductory physics, about which he and his wife wrote in his book A Year in Baghdad.  The book simply and effectively describes the challenges, anxieties and unexpected costs that occur in the interface of two very different cultures. 

Báez was an advocate of scientific education and from 1961 to 1967 was the first director of UNESCO’s scientific education program, working to improve scientific education in Latin America, Asia, Africa and the Middle East. He published  several science textbooks. As a lifelong pacifist, she opposed the Vietnam War and joined the protests against her.  Albert Báez was an arts buff and encouraged his children to pursue careers in music.   

In 1967 Dr. Báez published a textbook, The New Physics: A Spiral Approach and was one of the editors of The Environment and Science and Technology Education, the minutes of the 1985 Bangalore Conference on Education in Science and Technology and the Future of Human Needs. He wrote an essay of his life for the collection Voces Mexicanas/Sueños Americanos: An Oral History of Mexican Immigration to the United States (1990) edited by Marilyn P. Davis. In 1990, HENAAC (formerly the National Conference of Hispanic Engineers) awarded Dr. Báez the Chairman Award. Five years later HENAAC established the Albert V. Báez Award for Technical Excellence and Service to Humanity in his honor.