Civil Engineering 1872-1903

CHARLES EZRA GREENE was born at Cambridge, Massachusetts, February 12, 1842, son of the Reverend James   anti Sarah   ( )  . His brother was the first mayor of Cambridge and prominent in other offices of that city, and was descended from James   of  , an early settler of Massachusetts Bay. Sarah   ( )   was the daughter of Daniel    , a prominent lawyer of Dover, New Hampshire, member of Congress, Chief Justice of the Circuit Court, and United States District Attorney for New Hampshire. After fitting for college at the Cambridge High School and at   Academy, the son entered   College and was graduated Bachelor of Arts in 1862. He at once engaged in the manufacture of breech loading rifles at Massachusetts, and later at Worcester; but in February, 1864, became clerk in the Quartermaster's Department at  , Massachusetts. He was then commissioned First Lieutenant in the United States Colored Troops and served as Regimental Quartermaster before Richmond, and in Texas, until 1866, when he resigned and entered the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Here he was graduated Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering in 1868. From this time until 1870 he was Assistant Engineer on location and construction of the   and   Railroad in Maine. The next year he was United States Assistant Engineer on River and Harbor Improvements in Maine and New Hampshire, and was then appointed City Engineer of, where he also carried on a general practice until the summer of 1872. In that year he was appointed Professor of Civil Engineering at the University of Michigan, a position which he held to the time of his death, October 16, 1903. When the Department of Engineering was established as a separate organization in 1895, he was made its first dean. In 1884 he received the honorary degree of Civil Engineer from the University of Michigan. In addition to his duties as professor he carried on an extensive consulting practice. He was Chief Engineer of the Toledo, Ann Arbor, and Northern Railroad from 1879 to 1881; Superintending and Consulting Engineer of the Wheeling and Lake Erie Railroad bridge at Toledo in 1881-1882; designer and Superintendent of the construction of the Ann Arbor water-works in 1885; and designer of the Ann Arbor sewerage system in 1890. He paid special attention to the invention and development of graphical methods of analysis of frames, bridges, and arches. He published several works which were well received by the profession and which have been used in designing important structures: "Graphical Analysis of Bridge Trusses" (1874); "Trusses and Arches, Part I, Roof Trusses (1876), Part  , Bridge Trusses (1878), Part  , Arches (1879) "; "Structural Mechanics" (1897). He was a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers; also of the Michigan Engineering Society, of which he was president for three terms. In 1872 he was married to Florence Emerson, of  , Maine, who with their two children survives him, - Albert Emerson (Ph.B. 1895, B.S. [ ] 1896) and Florence   (A.B. 1903).

Burke A. Hinsdale and Isaac Newton Demmon, History of the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1906), pp. 246-247.


The Michigan Technic, 1888, Nov 4, Pages 1-5

By Henry Simmons Frieze

Among those who have been foremost in building of our several departments of instruction, and increasing the usefulness and reputation of the University, is the distinguished gentleman who is just now closing his sixteenth year of eminent service as Professor of Civil Engineering.  Though his name stands sixth on our present roll of seventy-five officers of instruction, he is still in point of age to be classed among our younger Professors.

Charles E. Greene was born in Cambridge, Mass., February 12, 1842.  Growing up under the shadow of Harvard, he naturally resorted to that institution for his collegiate education.  He entered there in 1858, after pursuing the preparatory studies for a time at the Cambridge High School, and afterwards at Phillips Exeter Academy.  He was graduated A B. at Harvard in 1862, and immediately engaged in the business of manufacturing breech-leading rifles.  He gave up this in the early part of 1864 to enter the military service of the Union as a volunteer.  His first position was that of Quartermaster’s Clerk at Camp Meigs, a camp of rendezvous established at Readville, Mass.  In January, 1865, he was commissioned First Lieutenant in the seventh regiment of United States colored troops, stationed before Richmond, Va., and was appointed regimental quartermaster.  He retained this office for some months after the regiment was transferred to Indianola, Texas, where he resigned his commission in August 1866.

He now entered the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to pursue the study of civil engineering, which he had chosen for his permanent profession.  Having completed the regular course of studies at this school in 1868, he was immediately appointed assistant engineer on the Bangor and Piscataquis railroad in Maine, and when that was finished, he was employed under General George Thom on the United States river and harbor improvement under in Main and New Hampshire.  This position he left to take the office of city engineer of Bangor, which he held until called to the chair of civil engineering at the University of Michigan in the fall of 1872.  Shortly before this he had declined an appointment to a similar chair in Washington University, at St. Louis.

Our department of civil engineering in the University of Michigan had grown out of the “Scientific Course” of studies organized here in 1853, and was opened in 1854 under the temporary charge of Professor Winchell, who was transferred in the following year to the chair of geology, and was succeeded in that of civil engineering by Professor Peck.  The latter, graduate of West Point, had recently resigned his commission of captain in the U. S. Army, and was expected to become the permanent head of our school of engineering.  But in 1857 he was induced to accept a professorship at Columbia College, New York.  Professor De Volson Wood, who was appointed his successor, held the chair until the summer of 1872, found the work well prepared to his hands.  He was still young, and without experience in teaching, and he was called to take the place of a veteran and very popular officer.  No position could have subjected his abilities to a server text; and no one could have more successfully sustained the trial.  Professor Greene with the advantages of a liberal or general education, and a thorough special training for his profession, had now also gained much actual experience in it; bit, more than this, he possessed certain traits of character, without which no amount of knowledge and experience can make an instructor of the highest order:  quiet self possession, that suggests reserved force, and gives perfect control of others; enthusiasm in his work, inspired by faith in its great importance and usefulness:  clearness of apprehension, with a clear ad clean-cut style of statement:  and finally what is not less essential, a hearty interest in the progress and welfare of his students.

The classes for a moment, especially the more advanced classes, had that restive feeling which change of instructors usually creates.  For students are unwilling to give to a newcomer to place in their confidence and esteem which they think belongs of right to a favorite predecessor.  But students also quickly recognize a true man; one in whom they discover at once manhood, strength, simplicity, honor, and began to feel that confidence in his teachings, and that respect and affection for his person, which have been heartily accorded to this most estimable officer from that day to this.  And so the department moved on as steadily as if no new hand had taken the helm.

The limits of this article forbid any detailed account of the history of the department since Professor Greene has been in charge.  Suffice it to say that under his wise management, seconded by his accomplished and able associates, Professor Davis and Professor Denison, the work in civil engineering has been gaining constantly in breadth and solidity, and has at the present moment a reputation of which the University may well be proud.  In its students not only has the highest possible attainment been insisted upon, but also they have been taught to entertain a deep sense of their responsibility to the state and the country as the followers of a profession, which involves such vast interests of property and life.  And their improvement, and culture, too, has been promoted by the warm encouragement given by Professor Greene to their collateral studies, and to their voluntary organization as a society of engineers.

But he has not confined his effort to the special work of his own chair.  He has by speaking the right word at the right moment brought about the organization of the coordinate branches of mining and mechanical engineering.  The former was established in 1874 and placed in charge of Professor Pettee.

The department of Mechanical, including Marine Engineering, was opened in consequence of the act of Congress in 1878, authorizing the Secretary of the Navy to detail engineering officers of the Navy to give instruction in Universities and Scientific Schools.  Professor Greene in 1880, desiring to take advantage of this provision, advised the then Acting President for apply for the detail of such an officer from the navy.  The fortunate result was the appointment of Professor Mortimer E. Cooley to the new chair of Mechanical Engineering.  Thus chiefly through the influence and agency of Professor Greene the University now embraces among its several professional and technical schools, a Department of Engineering consisting of three well established well-equipped and flourishing branches.

Meantime he has been active and efficient outside of the University, not only in practical works of engineering, but also in promoting the interest of his profession both as a member of scientific associations, and as a contributor to scientific literature.

He was chief engineer of the Toledo, Ann Arbor and Northern railroad in 1880, and I that capacity designed and built the trestle bridge over the Huron at Ann Arbor, a work described in “Abstracts of papers in Foreign Transactions,” published by the Institution of Civil Engineers of Great Britain in 1881, Vol. 54. He was in 1882 superintending, and then consulting engineer of the Wheeling and Lake Railroad Bridge across the Maumee at Toledo, and also consulting engineer in 1883 of the Cherry Street Bridge in Toledo.  He also furnished the engineering plans and superintended the construction of the water works of Ann Arbor in 1885, and planned water works for Pontiac and Ypsilanti in 1886.

In scientific investigation he has given much attention to the development of graphical methods of analysis pertaining to frames and other structures.  Among his numerous papers and publications may be mentioned a brief treatise on “The Analysis of Bridge Trusses,” in 1875, and “Papers on Roof Trusses,” published in the Engineering News, 1875-6.  A more important publication was “Graphics for Engineers,” which appeared in three Parts:  the first on Roof Trusses, in 1876, the second on Bridge Trusses, in April, 1879, and the third on Arches, in December, 1879.  Of these, parts Second and Third are devoted largely to a method of graphical analysis original with the author, and have been well received and extensively used by the engineering profession.  His miscellaneous scientific articles and book reviews written of late years have appeared in Science and other technical periodicals.

He has received, besides the degree of A. B. at Harvard in 1862, the degree of A. M. at the same university in 1865, that of B. S. at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1868, and that of C. E. from the University of Michigan in 1884.

Finally, I cannot conclude this brief and very inadequate sketch of a life already so fruitful, without observing that Professor Greene is among those members of our Faculty, who, in their love and strong preference for the University of Michigan, have declined invitations to other positions, tempting both on account of higher salaries and sometimes, perhaps, of more brilliant surroundings.  He has bravely sacrificed the opportunity of more generous remunerations elsewhere, notwithstanding the difficulty of living on the compensation hitherto received by our Professors, and the impossibility of saving from it any provision for the future.  And to his deep interest in the progress of the work he has been so long conducting here, and his desire to see it still more perfectly developed and brought to a still higher level, we owe our good fortune in still retaining his services in the University, and in still enjoying, what I hope we shall never lose, his genial companionship.


The Michigan Technic, 1904, Pages 4-7

By H. B. Merrick, ‘98

Whenever in His infinite wisdom the Creator of the universe calls to his reward one whose life stands out in bold relief from those of his fellowmen, those who are left must feel the sense of loss most keenly.

At the beginning of the present school year he, who has served as Dean of our Department of Engineering since its organization, laid down the work he had carried so long and so well, and answered the summons which must come to each one of us. His was a life so pure, so high in ideal, and so great in achievement, that we can but mourn his loss from amongst us.

Charles Ezra Greene was born in Cambridge, Mass., February 12, 1842, and died in Ann Arbor, Michigan, October 16, 1903. His father was a descendant of Rev. James D. Greene, of Charleston, freeman of 1647. His mother, Sarah A. Greene, was the daughter of Daniel M. Durell, a lawyer, member of Congress, Chief Justice of the Circuit Court, and United States District Attorney of New Hampshire.

Spending his boyhood days, as he did, in the shadow of Harvard University, it was but natural that his college days should be passed at that institution. Here, in 1862, was conferred upon him the degree of Bachelor of Arts, and, in 1865, that of Master of Arts.

From the time of his graduation until early in 1864 he was engaged in the manufacture of breech loading rifles. This business was then given up to enter the service of the United States government as a volunteer.

After serving some months as Quartermaster's Clerk he was, in January 1865, commissioned First Lieutenant in the 7th Regiment of United States colored troops stationed before Richmond, Virginia, and was appointed regimental quartermaster.

In August 1866, he resigned his commission and that fall entered the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to pursue the study of civil engineering. In 1868 he completed the course there and was at once given a position as Assistant Engineer on the Bangor & Piscataquis railroad in Maine.

After the completion of this road he was employed under Gen. George Thom, on the United States river and harbor improvements in Maine and New Hampshire. He gave up this work to go, to Bangor as City Engineer. While here he received a call to the chair of civil engineering in the Washington University at St. Louis, Mo. This he declined, but, in the fall of 1872, accepted a similar call to the University of Michigan.

His predecessors in this position were Dr. Alexander Winchell, who organized the department in 1953, and who was but temporarily in charge; Professor William Peck, who resigned at the end of two years; and Professor DeVolson Wood. Professor Wood had for fifteen years directed the affairs of the department, and had thoroughly organized and systematized the work.

Professor Greene assumed his duties without previous experience as a teacher; but being thoroughly prepared by a splendid liberal education, a special training for his profession; and considerable practical experience, he was able to carry them on in a most successful manner. He was also possessed of other qualifications, - qualificati6ns not to be acquired by the study of books - by which he was peculiarly adapted to the work at hand.

To quote from an article by Dr. Henry S. Frieze, which was printed in. the TECHNIC for 1888: "He possessed certain traits of character, without which no amount of knowledge and experience can make an instructor of the highest order; quiet self possession that suggests reserve force and gives perfect control of others; enthusiasm in his work inspired by faithfulness; clearness of apprehension with a clear and clean-cut style of statement; and finally, what is not less essential, a hearty interest in the progress *and welfare of his students."

Under his able management, aided by his associates in the work, the Department of Engineering grew and expanded until today it is second to none in the thoroughness of its work.  At the present time the department, largely through his influence, and as a result of his untiring energy, offers courses in five branches of engineering. From the one branch, Civil Engineering, have sprung those of Mining, Mechanical, Electrical, Marine and Chemical Engineering. The work in Mining Engineering was some years ago transferred to the Houghton School of Mines.

In 1895 the Regents severed the connection of the Department of Engineering with that of Literary, Science and the Arts. Professor Greene was then appointed Dean of his department and held this position until the close of his life.

Although so large a portion of his time was devoted to his work in the University, outside affairs claimed a share of his efforts.   In 1880 he was Chief Engineer of the Toledo, Ann Arbor & Northern railroad. The timber trestle bridge over the Huron River at Ann Arbor was designed and built by him.  This structure was replaced some years ago by one of steel.

In 1882 he was Superintending and then Consulting Engineer of the Wheeling & Lake Erie railroad bridge across the Maumee River at Toledo, Ohio, the following year be held the position of Consulting Engineer of the Cherry Street Bridge in the same city.  The figuring of the stresses in the different members of this bridge was an exercise given in his classroom for a number of years.

The engineering plans for, the water works of Ann Arbor were furnished by him.

He is well and widely known as an author of textbooks on engineering subjects. In less than six months after taking up his duties in the University his first volume was published.

It is not generally known that upon the occasion of his graduation from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology the faculty of that institution rejected his thesis. The small volume on Roof Trusses, above spoken of, is that thesis somewhat revised and enlarged.

It is only since that time that the graphical solution of problems of engineering has come into general use. Its trustworthiness was demonstrated experimentally in the following instance: When the two ends of the arch which spans the mighty waters of Niagara had almost met, there was inserted between the ends of the meeting ribs a mechanical contrivance for measuring the stresses there. The results obtained were in full accord with those found by the method given in Greene's Arches.  His labors as an author were continued until the publication of Structural Mechanics in 1897.

In Professor Greene's classroom young men learned things not printed in books. They were taught to use their reason and their judgment rather than their memory. Nothing pleased him better than to take up a new subject and by suggestion and well-directed inquiry, lead the student to formulate statements of which he had not believed himself capable.

At times, invariably for the students' good, he was exacting. He was never harsh. On one occasion when the papers on an examination in Theory of Construction were uniformly poor, he passed the entire class and at the next meeting made them a most humble apology for having failed to make the subject clear to them. This in a tone of real sorrow, which did much to inspire the members of that class to greater effort.

No one could sit in Professor Greene's classes and fail to be impressed by his complete mastery of the English language. In explaining a problem he was able to give his whole thought to the problem, the words of his sentences seeming to arrange themselves in such order as to leave no doubt as to their purport.  And this without apparent effort on his part. As an instance of this, Professor
J. B. Davis told me of a talk which Professor Greene gave before the Michigan Engineer. He said: "He spoke for two hours without notes, beginning with the triangle of forces, and carried us (carried is the word) through the subjects of trusses and the braced arch, and made it seem to us as if we really understood the methods and processes. At the conclusion the experienced stenographer who took the talk said to me: 'He is a remarkable man. I never heard anything like it. This matter is ready for the printer without revision.”

A tablet of bronze is to be inscribed to his memory and set in the wall of the new engineering building. It has been suggested to call this building the Greene Engineering Building. This is well. But he has left a far more enduring memorial than any "built with hands." The present department of engineering and the influence of a life well lived are monuments which time cannot destroy nor can the ravages of the elements deface them.

Nor was the mental in this man developed at the expense of the moral and the spiritual Each Sunday found him in his pew at church. His many acts of kindness and courtesy to people in the humbler walks of life were splendid examples of the brotherhood of man.

Our President, Theodore Roosevelt, in an address in New York, said: "The true Christian - is the true citizen, lofty of purpose, resolute in endeavor, ready for a hero's deeds, but never looking down on his task because it is cast in the day of small things; scornful of baseness, awake to his own duties as well as to his rights, following the higher law with reverence", and in this world doing all that in him lies, so that when death comes he may feel that mankind is in some degree better because he has lived."

Such was our honored Dean.


The Michigan Technic, 1904, Page 8

By President James B. Angell

Professor Greene brought to his work a broad and generous training. A graduate of Harvard College on the traditional classical course, and afterwards of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a soldier in the Civil War, and afterwards an engineer with varied practice in Maine, he had had for a young man a large and fruitful experience when he was called to the Chair of Civil Engineering in this University. His predecessor, Professor Wood, had been a man of very demonstrative temperament, which, with other attractive qualities, made him a great favorite with, his classes.

When Professor Greene, with his quiet reticent, undemonstrative temperament, succeeded to Professor Wood's chair, it required a little time for the students to appreciate his merits. But they came after a while to understand that this unassuming man had much to teach them, and that he was the sincere friend of every student who wished to do his duty. If he had a little of the military strictness in requiring full work of every man, they all learned that he held himself to the same fidelity in giving them the most helpful and thorough instruction. The success of his pupils in responsible posts is the proof of the value of his services to them, and from all parts of the land have come from those pupils grateful acknowledgments of their indebtedness to him and of their appreciation of him.

The letters which the writer has received from all the principal schools of engineering in the country and from eminent engineers not engaged in teaching, bear witness to the high esteem in which he was held for the merits of his published works and for his sterling character.

The University owes him a debt of gratitude for the devoted service, which he rendered during the long period of thirty-one years. His memory will be cherished like that of the other gifted and useful teachers who have given their best years to this institution.