Born in London, he was educated partly in England and partly in Germany. His father, a West India merchant, destined him for a commercial career, but a short experience of office work proved him to be entirely unsuited to such a life.
After a journey to Constantinople and the Crimea in 1856, he found an outlet for his restless energy by undertaking the supervision of the construction of a railway across the Dobrudja, connecting the Danube with the Black Sea. After its completion he spent some months in a tour in south-eastern Europe and Asia Minor. It was during this time that he met in Hungary the lady who (in 1860) became his second wife, Florence, daughter of Finnian von Sass, his first wife having died in 1855.
In March 1861 he started upon his first tour of exploration in central Africa.
In October, 1865 he returned to England with his wife, who had accompanied him throughout the whole of the perilous and arduous journey. In recognition of the achievements by which Baker had indissolubly linked his name with the solution of the problem of the Nile sources, the Royal Geographical Society awarded him its gold medal, and a similar distinction was bestowed on him by the Paris Geographical Society. In August 1866 he was knighted. In the same year he published The Albert N'yanza, Great Basin of the Nile, and Explorations of the Nile Sources, and in 1867 The Nile Tributaries of Abyssinia, both books quickly going through several editions. In 1868 he published a popular story called Cast up by the Sea. In 1869 he attended the prince of Wales, afterwards King Edward VII, in a tour through Egypt.
Renowned English explorer and hunter. Baker traveled to various parts of the world including Central Africa, south-eastern Europe and Asia Minor. He penned several works based on his expeditions and adventures.