Azerbaijan International

Spring 2005 (13.1)
Page 82


Lindley British Engineer

Few Azerbaijanis today know who engineered Baku's most reliable source of water a century ago. The Shollar pipeline, which originates at a water source in the Caucasus Mountains near Guba approximately 110 miles (177 km) north of Baku, is still lauded as far superior to all other water systems in Central Baku for its quality and reliability even today.

The documentation of such achievements is published in an 811-page book by Polish historian Ryszard Zelichowski called "Lindleyowie" (The Lindleys. The Story of a Family of Engineers). British civil engineer William Heerlein Lindley (1853-1917) coordinated the project for Baku's water supply system, working from 1899 up until his death in 1917.

Dr. Zelichowski was in search of trying to understand the relationship between hygiene and city engineering in 19th-century Warsaw when he discovered that its major water supply and sewage systems had been designed by British engineer William Lindley (1808-1900). Together father William Lindley and his three sons were involved in designing or consulting on the water supply and sewage systems for 48 European cities.

Through extensive research, Zelichowski traced Lindley's eldest son to the waterworks in Baku who is quoted as saying that Baku's water supply was "one of the most challenging projects he had ever undertaken in his entire life." At the end of the 19th century, the water shortage problem had become so severe in Baku because of the Oil Boom. City planners had exhausted all known solutions, from channeling water from nearby rivers to building desalination plants.

Zelichowski's study is part of a growing body of literature referred to as "Euro - Biography". His research identifies two major trends in Victorian engineering: (1) the incredible progress made by Western civilization, thanks to the ingenuity of these engineers in designing filtration systems for drinking water and in creating indoor plumbing, and (2) the profound legacy of these engineers as the first "true" Europeans who became deeply engaged in multi - culturalism for the benefit of the entire region. In today's lingo, we might have called them "Engineers Without Borders".


Ryszard Zelichowski. "Lindleyowie" (in Polish, "The Lindleys: The Story of a Family of Engineers"), Warsaw 2002, 811 pages. The author is hoping to publish this volume in English.

Consult "The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography" (Oxford 2004), a 60 - volume edition, for two articles in English about the Lindleys - father and son (Volume 33). The Dictionary, compiled by an impressive team of scholars, is considered one of the world's major biographical reference works and is expected to serve readers and researchers for the next 30-40 years until the next edition is published.

For more about the Lindleys and Azerbaijan, see "Water - Not a Drop to Drink. How Baku Got Its Water, The British Link: William H. Lindley" by Ryszard Zelichowski in AI 10.2 (Summer 2002). Search at
Dr. Zelichowski is Professor of History with the Institute of Political Studies of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw, Poland. E-mail:

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