Lillian Moller Gilbreth


Lillian Moller Gilbreth : biography

May 24, 1878 – January 2, 1972


Gilbreth had always been interested in teaching and education; as an undergraduate she took enough education courses to earn a teacher’s certificate,Lancaster 2004, p. 47. and her second doctoral dissertation was on efficient teaching methods.

While residing in Providence, Rhode Island, she and husband taught free two-week summer schools in scientific management from 1913 to 1916.Lancaster 2004, p. 140. They later discussed teaching the "Gilbreth system" of motion study to members of industry, but it was not until 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."Graham 1998, p. 96, citing Lillian Moller Gilbreth, typescript of an advertisement for Gilbreth, Inc., c.134 f. 0830-20, N-File, Gilbreth Collection at Purdue University. Coursework included laboratory projects and field trips to private firms to witness the application of scientific management.Graham 1998, p.98. She ran a total of seven motion study courses out of her home in Montclair, New Jersey until 1930.Graham 1998, pp. 100.

Meanwhile, Gilbreth had been lecturing at Purdue University since 1925, where her husband had previously given annual lectures.Graham 1998, p. 104. 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.Graham 1998, p. 234. 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".Graham 1998, p. 236. She retired from Purdue in 1948.

Besides teaching at Purdue, she was also appointed Knapp Visiting Professor at the University of Wisconsin’s School of Engineering,Lancaster 2004, p. 339. and taught at other universities including the Newark College of Engineering, Bryn Mawr College, and Rutgers University. She became resident lecturer at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1964, at the age of 86.