Friday, May 23, 2014

Lilian Gilbreth - Biography and Contribution - Industrial Psychology and Industrial Engineering

 (May 24, 1878 – January 2, 1972)

Lillian Evelyn Moller Gilbreth  was an American psychologist and she contributed to the development of  industrial engineering. She is given credit as the first true industrial/organizational psychologist.

Gilbreth was born in Oakland, California on May 24, 1878.  She attended Oakland High School and  graduated with exemplary grades in May 1896.

She graduated from the University of California in 1900 with a bachelor's degree in English literature. She originally pursued her master's degree at Columbia University, where she was exposed to the subject of psychology. However, due to illness, she returned home and  finished her master's degree in literature at the University of California in 1902.

She married  Frank Bunker Gilbreth, Sr.on October 19, 1904, in Oakland. Gilbreth completed a dissertation. She attempted to obtain a doctorate from the University of California in 1911, but was not awarded the degree due to noncompliance with residency requirements for doctoral candidates. The dissertation was  published as The Psychology of Management. Subsequently, she attended Brown University and earned a Ph.D in 1915, having written a second dissertation on efficient teaching methods called "Some Aspects of Eliminating Waste in Teaching". It was the first degree granted in industrial psychology.

Lillian Gilbreth  helped industrial engineers see the importance of the psychological dimensions of work. She became the first American psychologist to create a synthesis of psychology and scientific management. By applying the principles of scientific management to household tasks, Gilbreth "sought to provide women with shorter, simpler, and easier ways of doing housework to enable them to seek paid employment outside the home."

. Both Lillian and Frank Gilbreth believed that scientific management as formulated by Taylor fell short when it came to managing the human element on the shop floor.

She and her husband were partners in the management consulting firm of Gilbreth, Inc., which performed time and motion study. Additionally, the Gilbreths did research on fatigue study, the forerunner to ergonomics.

Domestic management and home economics[edit]
The Gilbreth children often took part in the experiments. Gilbreth was instrumental in the development of the modern kitchen, creating the "work triangle" and linear kitchen layouts that are often used today.

While residing in Providence, Rhode Island, she and husband taught free two-week summer schools in scientific management from 1913 to 1916. After her husband's death that she created a formal motion study course. Her first course began in January 1925, and it offered to "prepare a member of an organization, who has adequate training both in scientific method and in plant problems, to take charge of Motion Study work in that organization." Coursework included laboratory projects and field trips to private firms to witness the application of scientific management. She ran a total of seven motion study courses out of her home in Montclair, New Jersey until 1930.

Lilian Gilbreth had been lecturing at Purdue University since 1925, where her husband had previously given annual lectures. This led to a visiting professorship in 1935, when she became the first female engineering professor at Purdue; she was granted full professorship in 1940, dividing her time between the departments of industrial engineering, industrial psychology, home economics, and the dean's office where she consulted on careers for women. In the School of Industrial Engineering, she help establish a time and motion study laboratory, and transferred motion study techniques to the home economics department under the banner of "work simplification"  She retired from Purdue in 1948.

She was also appointed Knapp Visiting Professor at the University of Wisconsin's School of Engineering, and taught at other universities including the Newark College of Engineering , Bryn Mawr College, and Rutgers University. She also taught at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1964, at the age of 86.

She died on January 2, 1972 in Phoenix, Arizona.

Awards and achievements[edit]
During her career, Gilbreth received numerous awards and honors, including 23 honorary degrees from such schools as Princeton University, Brown University, and the University of Michigan. She was named 1954 Alumna of the Year by the University of California's alumni association. She was accepted to the membership of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers in 1926, becoming its second female member; the society later awarded both her and her husband (posthumously) the Henry Laurence Gantt Medal in 1944 for her contributions to industrial engineering. In 1950, she was the first honorary member of the newly created Society of Women Engineers.

In 1965, she became the first woman elected to the National Academy of Engineering. The next year, she received the Hoover Medal, an engineering prize awarded jointly by five engineering societies, for her "contributions to motion study and to recognition of the principle that management engineering and human relations are intertwined.... Additionally, her unselfish application of energy and creative efforts in modifying industrial and home environments for the handicapped has resulted in full employment of their capabilities and elevation of their self-esteem".

In 1984, the United States Postal Service issued a 40¢ Great Americans series postage stamp in Gilbreth's honor, and she was lauded by the American Psychological Association as the first female  psychologist to be so commemorated.

Multiple engineering awards have been named in her honor. The Lilian M. Gilbreth Lectureships were established in 2001 by the National Academy of Engineering, to recognize outstanding young American engineers, while the highest honor bestowed by the Institute of Industrial Engineers is the Frank and Lillian Gilbreth Industrial Engineering Award, for "those who have distinguished themselves through contributions to the welfare of mankind in the field of industrial engineering". (  )At Purdue University, the Lilian M. Gilbreth Distinguished Professor is an honor bestowed on a member of the industrial engineering department. Additionally, the Society of Women Engineers awards the Lillian Moller Gilbreth Memorial Scholarship to deserving female engineering undergraduates.

Lillian and husband Frank have a permanent collection in the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, and her portrait hangs in the National Portrait Gallery.[61] Their papers are housed in The Frank and Lillian Gilbreth Library of Management at Purdue University.

In 1941, Dr. Gilbreth was made an honorary member of Mortar Board by the Purdue University chapter of the esteemed national honor society.

Selected bibliography

The Psychology of Management: the Function of the Mind in Determining, Teaching and Installing Methods of Least Waste (1914)
Applied motion study; a collection of papers on the efficient method to industrial preparedness. (1917) with Frank B. Gilbreth
Fatigue Study: The Elimination of Humanity's Greatest Unnecessary Waste; a First Step in Motion Study (1916) with Frank B. Gilbreth
Motion Study for the Handicapped (1920) with Frank B. Gilbreth
The Quest of the One Best Way: A Sketch of the Life of Frank Bunker Gilbreth (1925)
The Home-maker and Her Job (1927)
Living With Our Children (1928)
Normal Lives for the Disabled (1948), with Edna Yost
The Foreman in Manpower Management (1947), with Alice Rice Cook
Management in the Home: Happier Living Through Saving Time and Energy (1954), with Orpha Mae Thomas and Eleanor Clymer
As I Remember: An Autobiography (1998), published posthumously

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