Following his conversion at age 17, Baller studied at the missionary institute established at Stepney Green, England. He sailed for China in 1873 as a member of the China Inland Mission (CIM) and studied the Chinese language in Nanking (Nanjing), then just recently liberated from the ravages of the Taiping rebels. During his first years of service in China, he was responsible for much of the mission work in Anhwei (Anhui) and Kiangsu (Jiangsu) Provinces and traveled widely as a pioneer in Shansi (Shanxi), Shensi (Shaanxi), Hunan, Hupeh (Hubei), and Kweichow (Guizhou) Provinces.
In 1896 he was appointed principal of the new training home for CIM male missionaries at Anching (Anqing), Szechuan (Sichuan). There he not only helped train missionaries in the Chinese language but also published his lectures in Letters, from an Old Missionary to His Nephew (1907). From 1900 to 1918 he served on the committee to revise the Mandarin New and Old Testaments. Among his many books, the best known are An Anglo-Chinese Dictionary, The Mandarin Primer (thirteen editions), An Idiom a Lesson, An Analytical Vocabulary of the New Testament, Lessons in Wenli, An English Translation of the Sacred Edict, and The Life of Hudson Taylor. He died and was buried in Shanghai shortly after completing his book on Taylor.
This article is reprinted from Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, Macmillan Reference USA, copyright (c) 1998 Gerald H. Anderson, by permission of The Gale Group; Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan. All rights reserved.
- Marshall Broomhall, F. W. Baller: A Master of the Pencil (1923). Obituaries by James Stark, Chinese Recorder, November 1922, pp. 715-716, and J. W. Wilson, Chinese Recorder; December 1922, pp. 778-779.