Compiled by David Ferguson
Newsletter of the Gilbreth Network
Welcome to the current issue of The Quest, Vol. 5, No. 1, Spring 2001, published in April 2001. The Quest is published quarterly.
The Quest is published by and copyright David Ferguson.
Inside this issue:
The Loss of Laughter
An Historic Honor for the Gilbreth Network
The Gilbreth Books--A Revival
The Quest for the Gilbreth Legacy
Welcome to New Members
Vol. 5, No. 1 Spring 2001
February 18th marked the passing of our beloved Frank B. Gilbreth, Jr., a month shy of his 90th birthday. This noted co-author of Cheaper by the Dozen and Belles on Their Toes, he also penned numerous books after his collaboration with his sister, Ernestine G. Carey. Under the penname, Ashley Cooper, he wrote a long-running column for the Charleston Post Courier, which ran until 1993. His classic wit can be found in all of his work. He had a way of finding the funny side of our lives, making us laugh at ourselves.
Frank, Junior, was welcomed into the world 89 years ago, by his grateful father. Frank, the senior, had grown up with a mother, two aunts and two sisters. When he married Lillian, their first four children were girls. We can only imagine how happy Frank's arrival made his father.
While his father groomed young Frank to become a later partner in their management consulting business, his life would take a wide turn in another direction. However, young Frank would later find his career in the combination of his parent's writing skills and that Gilbreth sense of humor and love of laughter.
I was never fortunate enough to meet Frank in person, but we exchanged a few letters over the years. Despite his writing about the family in Cheaper', Belles', and later Time Out for Happiness and Ancestors of the Dozen, Frank encouraged my interest in writing about his father. He felt that Frank, Sr., had never received the full recognition he deserved.
With Frank's death, we can only hope that people will explore his other writing. There is no question that Cheaper' and Belles' are classics. Written in 1948 and '50, they are still in current publication. Not only was each made into a movie, but the books also led to a stage play and a musical, still popular with school theater groups.
Frank wrote about fatherhood, in the post-war baby boom, and he dug back into the history of his beloved Nantucket. He continued to write about family members, when he told the story of brother Bob and the Anchor Inn. And no place did his humorous social commentary shine more than his writing of his adopted home, Charleston, South Carolina; that time capsule of the anti-bellum south.
He didn't reserve his wit just for the foibles of self-possessed aristocrats, but could equally find humor in the common folks. Of course, a favorite target was himself, recognizing that if you are going to throw stones, you'd better break the glass in your own house before someone else does.
The greatest memorial we can make for Frank Gilbreth is to simply pick up one of his books. Then, when your laughter breaks the silence, you can tell your spouse what was so darned funny.
At their awards banquet, on March 20th, the Society for the Advancement of Management awarded the Gilbreth Medal to David S. Ferguson, for his work with the Gilbreth Network.
Dr. William Sauser, Jr., (chairman of the Awards Committee) stated: "The Gilbreth Medal is a tribute to the pioneering work of Frank and Lillian Gilbreth, whose principles and techniques have contributed greatly to the economy and effectiveness of operations in business organizations throughout the world. Your work with the Gilbreth Network, to publicize the contributions of the Gilbreths is worthy of recognition through this award."
Dr. Sauser also read a letter from Ernestine G. Carey, in which she said, "We Gilbreths individually and as a family, are with you in spirit tonight. We congratulate you all on this conferral of the Gilbreth Medal upon David Ferguson. This choice obviously honors SAM as a society as well as David himself….and [we] join in your Huzzas."
In his acceptance speech, Mr. Ferguson thanked SAM for this historic honor, from a society Frank Gilbreth had helped to found. He also said that his award was thanks to three women in his life: his wife, Donna, for indulging him in his rather unusual hobby (the Network); Ernestine Carey for her inspiration and constant support; and most of all, thanks to the outstanding work done by the creator of the Gilbreth Network web site, Mary Ann Hainthaler. He went on to state, that without Mary Ann's generous gift of her time and talents, the Gilbreth Network would never have been able to reach that next generation of Gilbreth students. David went on to say: "Thank you all. Today, more than ever before, the business world needs the inspiration of 'thought detonators' like the Gilbreths. I'm just happy to have played a small part in sharing it with you."
We are pleased to announce that the Gilbreth Network is about to release its first computer reprint of the Gilbreth books. Motion Study, by Frank Gilbreth, will soon be available in two electronic formats.
During the existence of the Gilbreth Network, we have received numerous requests for information on how to get copies of the Gilbreths' earlier books. In the seventies, Hive Publishing offered reprints of the Gilbreth books, but the new owners disappeared, a few years ago, along with their inventory of books. With original editions becoming valuable and fragile, inter-library loans became harder to find.
Thanks to an anonymous donor, last fall, we were able to purchase a new scanner, to convert the Gilbreth books into computer files. After experimenting with software and suggestions from the founder of Project Gutenberg (a preservation project to convert pre-1927 books into electronic text), we were able to create our first electronic Gilbreth book.
Motion Study was first released as a serialized article in Industrial Management and later published, as a book, in 1911, actually pre-dating Taylor's more famous, Principles of Scientific Management. The Gilbreths' book lays the groundwork for their approach to management, and contains the foundations of modern ergonomics and industrial safety.
This book is available in two formats: 1) The "Text Only" format which can be viewed through any number of computer programs. This format, does not contain the numerous photos and illustrations, contained in the original book. We will be working towards having a downloadable file, on our website. In the meantime, it is available free of charge by e-mailing me. I will send it as an attachment, by return e-mail. It is about 163 kb, so allow for upload time.
2) The "Microsoft Word" version contains all the original pictures, charts and diagrams, and has made every effort to maintain the original look of the book. Due to the size of the file, (10 mb) it will only be available in a CD-R format. The cost for a copy is $7.00, within the US or $10.00 for international shipping. These costs cover our expenses of buying the CDs, packaging and shipping. If you have an older version of MS Word, or a different word processing format, we will be happy to create a file as directed, but make no guarantees as to maintaining the original aspect/appearance of the pages. We are sorry, but no paper version will be available. However, with either text or MS Word format, you can make a printed copy at home.
Please address your requests to David Ferguson. E-mail:
firstname.lastname@example.org Mail: 113 Kay Ct., Cloverdale, CA 95425
As so often happens, several events, in the last few months, prompted a reassessment of our assumptions regarding the Gilbreth legacy in industry and business. Having spent the last 6 years researching the work of the Gilbreths, I made the mistake that everyone interested in the Gilbreths would have come to the same observations that I did, as to the importance of the Gilbreths' work in modern business. Yet, despite the efforts of the Network and many other sources, we are receiving continual requests for information on the Gilbreths' legacy.
Recently, I read a fine article on Robert Goddard, the pioneer of rocketry. This story, in the marvelous Smithsonian Magazine provided a great deal of information on how Goddard had been the visionary of this field. However, one person called Goddard's work "a dead branch on the tree of knowledge of rocket science", because Goddard had kept his work so secret, and never published any of his findings.
While we can easily point to modern applications of the Gilbreths' work, this "dead branch" concept started me to think. Could the Gilbreths have been such a dead branch? Could our assumptions of their importance be misguided.
Thankfully, the answer is a resounding NO! First, unlike Goddard, the Gilbreths generously shared their systems and findings with the world. After reviewing their letters to various educators and business people, the Gilbreths had sent hundreds of copies of their latest books and articles, or recent motion study photographs. While they patented their first methods of doing motion study, they distributed the information freely. After Frank's death, Lillian, besides conducting courses in motion study, provided full access to the Gilbreth, Inc. files and motion study film, to the next generation of experts, like Shaw, Mogenson, and Barnes.
No, I think you'd have to say that unlike Goddard, they shared their knowledge with the world. Indeed, perhaps they shared too much. The extent of their dissemination of information may have actually diluted a direct Gilbreth connection. Motion Study may have become so universally known that its association with the Gilbreths became lost.
Another article, however, raised the same question about the Gilbreths' legacy. Richard Lindstrom, a long-time Gilbreth Network member, had recently received his doctorate (congratulations Richard!) and had written an article called "Workers, Photography and Scientific Management" published in the October, 2000 edition of Technology and Culture.
Dr. Lindstrom's article demonstrated an excellent job of research, not only delving deep into the dust-filled corners of the Gilbreth archive, at Purdue, but also documenting associated commentary on scientific management. However, some of his observations about the Gilbreths' photographic work in motion study, failed to recognize the modern implications of their efforts.
He made several references to the Gilbreths overreaching in their captioned descriptions of some shots or that they had some "mysterious" method of interrupting the information on the films, since it wasn't clearly. While not wishing to enter a debate on this, I will point out that the very photographic methods used by the Gilbreths are today employed in the study of motions. In some cases, the only difference between the Gilbreths' work and current efforts, is the technology available.
If, as frequently intimated, the Gilbreths' film work was more show than substance, then why is it that they consistently designed interventions and created rules of motions so akin to modern ergonomics. If their findings of seating positions, workstation layouts, and tool use did not come from their film studies, then they are the greatest theoreticians since Einstein.
As if to come full circle, a third, relevant article appeared in my local newspaper. Ironically, one of the best examples of the Gilbreth legacy can be found right in my backyard. A company called "Motion Analysis" (MA), of Santa Rosa, CA, takes light-reflecting disks and places them on a person's body at key movement points and joints. Then, using a strobe light to create a time measurement, through film or digital methods, they can capture the complete motions of a runner or of a golf swing. Yes, indeed! They have created a modern Chronocyclegraph.
Their methods are in demand in many venues. For example, when digital animators want to recreate natural, human motions, MA's use of reflective disks, attached to a walking human model, give the animator a true basis for their character's movements.
Just as the Gilbreths, they are using their methods to analyze sports motions, golf strokes, etc. In a variation on Frank's study of limping soldiers, MA can use their system to plot the motions of injured people, so that doctors can determine needed therapy or prosthetics. They are also extending into biomechanical studies for equipment/tool design.
Motion Analysis is the epitome of a company Frank Gilbreth would design if he were alive today. The company has Gilbreth written all over it.
By the way, if you want to talk about coincidence, Tom Whitaker and John Greaves founded the company, in 1982. A man named S.E. Whitaker was a prominent assistant of Frank Gilbreths at New England Butt and in Germany. Although spelled differently, Tom Grieves was the Gilbreth family handyman. Could it be????---no that would be too much of a legacy.
Now, it's your turn. While we are always looking for articles on any subject, our readers would be particularly interested in stories about application of the Gilbreths' techniques or legacy. Whether it was something you read about or your personal use of Therbligs, Motion Study or any other Gilbreth method; we want to hear from you.
Steve Gilbreth, of San Ramon, CA has joined and wants to try and find out if he may be related to the Dozen. E-mail him at [omitted].
Carl Lindenmeyer, of C-Four, Pendleton, SC, is interested in motion & time study, and methods improvement. E-mail him at [omitted].
Amelia Dickens, of Waverly, OH, is a junior high teacher. Each year, her class reads Cheaper by the Dozen. E-mail her at [omitted].
Welcome to you all.
We would like to thank the following people for their recent donations, received after the last issue of The Quest was printed.
Our updated donor recognition now reads as follows:
One Best Way
The Boren Foundation (Rebecca Boren)
Frank Gilbreth, Jr.
Ben Graham, Jr.
Institute of Industrial Engineers
Joseph M. Juran
— from the website The Gilbreth Network Online. Reformatted but unedited. All rights remain with the author and/or publisher.
It can be assumed that all physical and web addresses in this document are obsolete.