Hardy Cross

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The University is a place to get into as much intellectual trouble as possible, a place to make mistakes, many mistakes and rectify them – Hardy Cross (Kingery, Berg, Schillinger, 1967, p. 12)

Hardy Cross was born February 10th, 1885 on the family plantation in Nansemond County, near the Great Dismal Swamp, Virginia. Both Cross and his brother Tom Peete were educated at the Norfolk Academy in Norfolk, VA. The brothers then both went on to Hampden-Sydney College where Cross received both his B.A. and B.S. degrees in 1902 and 1903. Both of these degrees were awarded before his eighteenth birthday.

Hardy Cross

Hardy Cross

After graduation, Cross taught English and Mathematics for three years before going to MIT to receive a B.S. in Civil Engineering after only two years of study. By 1911, Cross had moved on to Harvard University, where he received his M.S. in Civil Engineering.

Cross then started teaching. His first appointment was at Brown University, where he served for seven years, between 1911 and 1918. Outside of the classroom he served as a bridge engineer for the Missouri Pacific Railroad, where he worked with prominent consulting civil engineers that specialized in structural and hydraulic engineering. He also spent the year of 1920 as an assistant engineer for Charles T. Main.

Cross then came to Illinois in 1921. He was replacing Charles Alton Ellis, who had resigned to design the Golden Gate Bridge. While at Illinois, Cross advanced some of his most important work, including developing simplified methods of analysis by means of converging approximations. The most significant of these, the fixed-end moment distribution for analysis of continuous structures, greatly simplified the way stresses could be calculated. This method was published in 1930 and went on to be commonly called the Hardy Cross Method.

As a teacher, Cross was a staunch supporter of oral examinations for candidate of advanced degrees, often leading discussions on the topic. Furthermore, he was very against educational inflation, once saying:

“A common characteristic of the campus inflationist is that he benefits from the inflation but pays for it not at all; he has bigger department, more courses, more contacts, without cost to himself: usually he hopes for more money for himself and certainly hopes for more influence. I here indict him as responsible for the penalties that others pay for inflation”.

Cross was on faculty at Illinois until 1937, when he went to Yale University to head and chair the Department of Civil Engineering. He remained at Yale until he retired in 1951. He and his wife Edythe moved to Virginia beach until their deaths, his in 1959 and hers in 1956.

– Engineering Hall. This is where Cross’s office was located.


Check out this blog post from the University Archives on Hardy Cross and his colleague and friend Thomas Clark Shedd.


Anderson, B. (2013, April 10). Thomas Clark Shedd, Hardy Cross, and the “Broad Aspects” of Civil Engineering [Web log comment]. Retrieved from https://archives.library.illinois.edu/blog/thomas-clark-shedd-hardy-cross-and-broad-aspects/

Civil and Environmental Engineering Alumni. (1997). “What’s Bill Hall Doing With Hardy Cross’s Wallet?” CEE Alumni Piece. p. 23

Cross, H. (1937) “Educational Inflation”. Talk before Civil Engineering Section, Society for Promotion of Engineering Education. Cambridge, Mass.

Hardy Cross. (1930s). Faculty Portraits, 1932, ca. 1940, 1980 – 2012. Record Series 39/2/25, Box 1, Folder 4: Col – Edm. University of Illinois Archives.

Kingery, R. A., Berg, R. D., & Schillinger, E. H. (1967). Men and Ideas in Engineering. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press.