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Francis Baird

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Francis Baird (1802-1864)

1823 Francis Baird, St. Petersburg, became a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers.[1]

Son of Charles Baird

1870 Obituary [2]

MR. FRANCIS BAIRD, the second son of Mr. Charles Baird, the founder of the celebrated ‘Baird Works,’ at St. Petersburg, was born on the 16th of February, 1802.

After being educated at the University of Edinburgh, he joined his father’s works at the age of seventeen, and entered zealously into the business there originated.

He was elected into the Institution of Civil Engineers on the 25th of February, 1823, as a Corresponding Member, a class which differed only in name from that of Member, and the two were incorporated in one class by special revolution passed at a General Meeting of Members, held on the 26th December, l837.

In October, 1828, he married Dorothea, the second daughter of the late Mr. John Halliday, and by this marriage had ten children, of whom three only survived him.

From the period of Francis joining his father, to the death of the latter in 1843, the two were associated in business, and on the occurrence of that event, Francis became, and continued to be, the sole proprietor, until his own death on the 25th March, 1864.

Numerous public and private works were executed at the Baird foundry, including the machinery for the Imperial arsenal and the Imperial glass-works, suspension bridges, the slip for hauling up vessels on the tideless shore of the Gulf of Finland, numerous steam-vessels, steam-engines by which various manufactories, saw and flour mills, wool, cotton, and flax mills, rope-works, &C., were set in motion.

The nature of these works, and the length of time required for their completion, were such as to extend beyond the period of the joint exertions of father and son, so that some of them ultimately devolved solely on Francis.

Amongst the public works may be specially mentioned the share taken in the construction of the column erected to the memory of the Emperor Alexander I. in the centre of the square of the Winter Palace, and also of the St. Isaac’s Cathedral, at St. Petersburg - two of the most remarkable edifices of modern construction - the former higher than the Napoleon column at Paris, or the pillars of Trajan and Antonine at Rome, or of Pompey at Alexandria; the latter intended to rank with the cathedral of St. Paul in London, St. Peter at Rome, St. Sophia at Constantinople, and other similar grand temples in Europe. The four bas-reliefs on the base of the Alexander column, the four eagles at the angles of the pedestal, the four candelabra at the corners of, and the bronze railing round the monument, and the colossal figure of the angel holding a cross, upwards of twenty feet in height at its summit, were all executed at the Baird Works by a then novel process, and in a foundry specially erected for the purpose, from designs composed by the architect, the late M. de Montferrand, assisted by the sculptors MM. Swintzoff, Lepee, and Orlowski.

The two furnaces in this foundry were each capable of melting 24,000 lbs. of copper in two hours and a half, and there were two cranes each of which were capable of lifting a weight of 40,000 lbs.; they were used principally for moving the moulds for the process of casting. Most of the bas-reliefs and figures were cast in one piece.

The rebuilding of the St. Isaac Cathedral was likewise entrusted to M. de Montferrand, who engaged the services of the Bairds in the construction in bronze of the bas-reliefs, the colossal figures, and the gilded dome and cupola which adorn that remarkable building. The bas-reliefs in the four fronts of this cathedral, weighing 800,000 lbs., the figures in bronze, each 15 feet 2 inches high, representing the Twelve Apostles, the statues in bronze round the exterior colonnade of the dome, the construction in iron, covered with plates of polished copper, of the gilded dome, 130 feet in diameter, and the bases and capitals in bronze, both in the interior and the exterior of the cathedral, were all made at the Baird Works, and so well were they executed, as to elicit the warmest encomiums from the architect.

Amongst other works of a public nature may be named the Blagavetchari (usually called the St. Nicholas) bridge, which was the first permanent structure of the kind across the Neva. This last was the work of Mr. Francis Baird alone, as well as others of great utility after his father's death; indeed the business increased to such an extent that many marine engines of 800 H.P. were made at those works, which were many and high orders of distinction were conferred on both father and son in Russia, including those of St. Anne, of Vladimir, of the second order of Stanislaus, and of others. They were honoured with Imperial visits - no slight distinction in Russia from three successive Emperors, and from the present Grand Duke Constantine. Like to his father's nature and conduct through life, Francis Baird's was of the most generous, open-handed mould.

His end was sudden. He was warmly attached to and beloved by his family, and hurried to England to pay the last tribute of love and respect towards a daughter whose untimely end had thrown upon all who knew her the deepest and most enduring grief.

He returned to St. Petersburg in health, but within one month he was attacked with fatal illness, and died just after attaining his sixty-second year.

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