Baildon was born in Larbert, Scotland. In 1793, he came to Prussian Silesia (in modern day Poland) on the invitation of Friedrich von Reden. During the remainder of his life in Silesia, Baildon was involved in numerous pioneering industrial undertakings, including construction of the first blast furnaces fired by coke in continental Europe (in Gleiwitz (Gliwice) and Königshütte (Chorzów), the first pig iron produced on 21 September 1796), the Klodnitz (Kłodnica) Canal, and the first iron bridge in continental Europe (over the Strzegomka river in Łażany, Lower Silesia, erected in Spring 1796).
John married in 1804 and had 7 children (5 sons, 2 daughters). He died in Gleiwitz and is buried there (at the "Hutniczy" cemetery).
A major steel works (pl:Huta Baildon in Katowice) was named after him.