Charles B. Breed


Charles B. Breed

Teacher – Author – Consultant – Engineer – Designer – Surveyor

Education – Railways – Highways – Sanitation – City Planning – Dams – Construction

Second National Honor Member Nominated by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Chapter

Among the outstanding engineers who projected the civil engineer’s image well into the twentieth century, with vigor and disciplined competence, was Charles Blaney Breed. A graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1897, he served this center of learning continuously for sixty years, and passed away August 9, 1958, at Camden, Maine. The rungs of his “ladder” were named instructor, assistant professor, associate professor, professor of railroad engineering, professor of railway and highway engineering, professor of railway and highway transportation, professor of civil engineering, and professor of civil engineering, emeritus. He served as head of the Department of Civil and Sanitary Engineering from 1933 to 1944 and as chairman of the faculty from 1940 to 1942.

Let no man think of this service, all-important as it was, as a restrictive tether, because Professor Breed’s influence has been felt around the world as a consultant and technical writer, adviser to railroads, to municipalities, to state highway departments, and to extensive private projects, far and wide. In 1909, he joined with H. K. Barrows to found the consulting firm of Barrows & Breed. After 1916, he engaged in private practice, serving as a consultant to the Association of American Railways, the Pennsylvania Railroad Company, the New York Central Railroad, the Canadian Pacific Railway, and others. He acted as arbitrator under the statutes of several states on disputes involving engineering contracts. He was a competent adviser in the fields of dams, sewerage systems, building construction, dredging, and large city improvements. His advice was sought by several state public utility commissions on valuations, bridge construction, traffic control, and pavement design and performance. During World War I, he was President of the Academic Board of the United States Army School of Military Aeronautics at MIT. In all this service, the elimination of grade crossings and arbitration stand out most prominently.

The two-volume book by Breed and Hosmer entitled “Principles and Practice of Surveying” was a standard text for more than fifty years. Professor Breed was also the author of a text on surveying, and a surveying manual (EM 908) for the Armed Forces Institute in World War II. He was an associate editor of the American Civil Engineers Pocketbook and of the American Mining Engineers Handbook. He was responsible, also, for portions of several other technical books and many technical reports on the economics of transportation in the railroad, highway, and air transportation fields.

He was a master in the art of sociability, a national honorary member of the American Society of Civil Engineers, past president of the Boston Society of Civil Engineers, and the New England Railroad Club. He was a valued member of the Engineering Institute of Canada, the American Road Builders Association, the American Railway Engineering Association, the Highway Research Board, the Association of University Professors, and the American Society for Engineering Education. Active in civic affairs, he was past president of the Boston City Club and director of several banks.

In his published memoir of Charlie Breed (Journal of the Boston Society of Civil Engineers, October, 1958), Professor A. J. Bone has drawn a fine word picture of this notable civil engineer: “Professor Breed met life with zest and vigor, living each day to the fullest. With quick mind, ready humor, and a tremendous capacity for work he was undaunted by any assignment. His spirit was not dimmed by adversity nor elated by success. Yet in all his busy career he found time to take an interest in people and their problems. As educator, engineer, businessman, and friend, his counsel and help have left their mark on generations of students and associates.”

The minutes of the MIT chapter in the newsletter (TRANSIT, Vol. V, No.1, page 15), testify that “ … in January (1932) we held a formal initiation banquet in Walker Memorial to initiate Brother Professor Charles B. Breed to his exalted position of National Honorary Member … “ He was therefore the second member of the Fraternity to be so elevated in this very selective list.

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