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Laurie Baker or Laurence Wilfred Baker was born on March 2, 1917 into a very staunch Christian Methodist family. The family was deeply involved in church activities. Laurie’s father Charles was the chief accountant at the Birmingham Gas Corporation and everyone expected Laurie to follow in his father’s footsteps. Laurie though, did not like mathematics much and was interested in design. In his childhood he would accompany his father every weekend to visit cathedrals and other old buildings and then he would build models and draw pictures of what he had seen. After his matriculation, he joined the Birmingham’ School of Architecture and became an Associate Member of the Royal Institute of Architects (ARIBA) in 1938. Hardly had he got the opportunity to start working in England when World War II broke out just a year later in 1939.

In his youth Laurie had participated quite devotedly in all church activities along with his family. However now in his teens, the traditional teachings of the church were starting to seem less appealing to him. He came into contact with some Quakers or members of the Society of Friends who believed in the power of non-violence and to live in respect of every person small or big, rich or poor. The Quakers' interpretation of Jesus' teachings attracted Laurie. Later, he would similarly be drawn to the similar beliefs of Mahatma Gandhi who would be a major influence on his work in India.

Due to his Quaker beliefs Laurie was against fighting. However recognizing the pressing need for medical help he and other Quakers provided medical help through the Friends Ambulance Unit, which went into war zones to pick up the wounded and then treat them. It was during this period that he was trained as a nurse, midwife and anesthetist.

 

In Laurie's own words:

 

A year or so after I qualified as an architect, the second great world war started. I was determined that violence was no way of settling international or any other disagreements. Knowing the damage and the hurt and suffering war creates; I immediately joined the Friends Ambulance Unit and had training in dealing with causalities in a big London hospital.

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