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William Fairbairn (1789–1874)

Photo credit: The Royal Society

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Three-quarter-length seated portrait of Sir William Fairbairn. The engineer holds a quill pen in his right hand, the left elbow leaning against a table to the sitter’s left, his face leaning lightly on his left hand. The table is covered in a green cloth and contains a glass inkwell held on a silver stand with a second quill. There is an angled writing stand with papers on it. Another set of papers to the foreground is headed: 'Observations of the Cold blast' (referring to Fairbairn’s published researches 'On the strength and properties of cast iron obtained from the Hot and Cold blast', presented at the British Association for the Advancement of Science in 1838). Fairbairn is dressed in a black suit and tie with a white shirt. A pair of gold spectacles hangs from a black ribbon around his neck and there are two seals set in gold hanging at his waist.

The Royal Society



19th C


oil on canvas


H 124 x W 98.5 cm

Accession number


Acquisition method

bequeathed by the sitter, 1874

Work type



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The Royal Society

6–9 Carlton House Terrace, London, Greater London SW1Y 5AG England

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