Lawyer and businessman, born in Chester, England, on February 12, 1823, the son of Rev. William Johnstone and Sarah (Needam) Bakewell. William's father was a clergyman of the Church of England. His son was educated in Norwich, England, and in 1839 at the age of sixteen, emigrated to the United States with his parents and three brothers. William's fondness for mathematics attracted him to the study of civil engineering and his was employed by Colonel Minor Roberts, of the Engineering Corps of the State of Pennsylvania, on the construction of the Erie Canal. While employed as a civil engineer, Mr. Bakewell was associated with Hon. Felix Brunot, who encouraged him to study law in the office of Charles O. Bradford. Bakewell also attended the law school of the Western University of Pennsylvania and was admitted to the bar in January 1845. He married Jane H. Campbell, daughter of Rev. Allan D. and Nancy White (Bakewell) Campbell. The couple had eight children of which two died young.
William Bakewell was admitted to practice before the U.S. courts in 1850, having made a special study of patent cases. As a patent attorney he was one of the pioneers of this branch of the legal profession and the father of patent law in Pittsburgh. He was also connected with the Monongahela Navigation Company as an officer from its inception until its sale to the U.S. Government fifty years later. Mr. Bakewell served as George Westinghouses's attorney and was secretary of the board of trustees of the Western University of Pennsylvania (now the University of Pittsburgh) and the Western Theological Seminary and a trustee of Allegheny Cemetary.