Born in Gloucester, Baldwin attended the Crypt Grammar School followed by St. John's College, Cambridge. He completed the natural sciences tripos, specialising in biochemistry for Part II. He won a Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851 scholarship for 1933–1935, remaining at Cambridge to study biochemistry. His main influence there was the eminent biochemist Frederick Gowland Hopkins; he also worked with Joseph Needham and Dorothy Needham.
In 1937, inspired by the broad biochemical interests of Hopkins and the Needhams, Baldwin published An Introduction to Comparative Biochemistry, an influential introductory textbook that went through four editions, the last in 1964. By 1946 Baldwin had advanced to the position of lecturer in biochemistry at Cambridge. In 1947, he published the first edition (of five) of Dynamic Aspects of Biochemistry, a widely used (and translated) textbook that won the 1952 European Cortina-Ulisse Prize. Baldwin's research at St. John's from 1940 to 1949 focused on the roundworm Ascaris lumbricoides. He also spent the summer of 1948 at the Marine Biological Laboratory, studying phosphagen in invertebrates.
In 1950, Baldwin moved to University College, London, as chair of biochemistry. In addition to developing a biochemistry curriculum and managing new laboratory facilities, Baldwin's main areas of research at University College were comparative biochemistry, particularly in relation to nitrogen metabolism and ureotelic metabolism. His work was well regarded, especially abroad, and he held visiting professorships at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the University of Kansas.
Ernest Baldwin married Pauline Mary Edwards in 1933. They had two children: Nicola and Nigel St. John. Baldwin died of congestive heart failure in 1969, after a prolonged struggle with myotonic muscular dystrophy.
List of works
- An Introduction to Comparative Biochemistry (1937). Second edition, 1940; third edition 1948; fourth edition, 1964.
- Dynamic Aspects of Biochemistry (1947).
- The Nature of Biochemistry (1947).
- S. P. Datta. "Baldwin, Ernest Hubert Francis (1909–1969), biochemist", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004. Accessed October 3, 2007.
- National Cataloguing Unit for the Archives of Contemporary Scientists, The Library, Bath University, "Guide to the manuscript papers of British scientists: B". Accessed October 5, 2007.