Frederick Winslow Taylor

BIOGRAPHICAL ESSAY


Taylor, Frederick Winslow (Mar. 20, 1856 - Mar. 21, 1915), efficiency engineer and inventor, was born in Germantown, Philadelphia, Pa., the youngest child of Franklin and Emily Annette (Winslow) Taylor. He was a descendant of Samuel Taylor, who settled in Burlington, N. J., in 1677. His father was a lawyer, more interested, however, in literature than law; his mother was an ardent abolitionist and a coworker with Lucretia Mott [q.v.] in this cause. Taylor received his early education from his mother. In 1872, after two years of schooling in France and Germany, followed by eighteen months of travel in Europe, he entered Phillips Exeter Academy at Exeter, N. H., to prepare for the Harvard Law School. Though he graduated with his class two years later, his eyesight had become in the meantime so impaired that he had to abandon further study, and between 1874 and 1878 he worked in the shops of the Enterprise Hydraulic Works, a pump-manufacturing company in Philadelphia, learning the trades of pattern-maker and machinist. In the latter year he joined the Midvale Steel Company, Philadelphia, as a common laborer. In the succeeding twelve years he not only rose to be chief engineer (1884), but in 1883, by studying at night, obtained the degree of M.E. from Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, N. J. On May 3, 1884, he married Louise M. Spooner of Philadelphia. His inventions during these years effecting improvements in machinery and manufacturing methods were many, the outstanding one being the design and construction of the largest successful steam hammer ever built in the United States (patent No. 424,939, Apr. 1, 1890). After three years (1890-93) as general manager of the Manufacturing Investment Company, Philadelphia, operators of large paper mills in Maine and Wisconsin, he began a consulting practice in Philadelphia--his business card read "Systematizing Shop Management and Manufacturing Costs a Specialty"--which led to the development of a new profession.

Behind this lay Taylor's years of observation and study of manufacturing conditions and methods. From these he had evolved a theory that, by scientific study of every minute step and operation in a manufacturing plant, data could be obtained as to the fair and reasonable production capacities of both man and machine, and that the application of such data would, in turn, abolish the antagonism between employer and employee, and bring about increased efficiencies in all directions. He had in addition worked out a comprehensive system of analysis, classification, and symbolization to be used in the study of every type of manufacturing organization. For five years he successfully applied his theory in a variety of establishments, administrative and sales departments as well as shops. In 1898 he was retained exclusively for that purpose by the Bethlehem Steel Company, Bethlehem, Pa. In the course of his work there he undertook, with J. Maunsel White, a study of the treatment of tool steel which led to the discovery of the Taylor-White process of heat treatment of tool steel, yielding increased cutting capacities of 200 to 300 per cent. This process and the tools treated by it are now used in practically every machine shop of the world. While he was at Bethlehem, too, Taylor's ideas regarding scientific management took more concrete form. Being convinced of the results that would be attained if these principles should be generally adopted throughout the industrial world, he resigned from the Bethlehem Steel Company in 1901, returned to Philadelphia, and devoted the remainder of his life to expounding these principles, giving his services free to anybody who was sincerely desirous of carrying out his methods. While he met with many unbelievers among both employers and employees, he lived to see his system widely applied. In 1911 the Society to Promote the Science of Management (after his death renamed the Taylor Society) was established by enthusiastic engineers and industrialists throughout the world to carry on his work.
Among Taylor's contributions to the technical journals were "A Piece-Rate System" (Transactions of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, vol. XVI, 1895), an exposition of the principles on which his system of management was subsequently based, and "Shop Management" (Ibid., vol. XXIV, 1903), which was translated and published in almost every country of Europe. An active member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, he served as vice-president in 1904-05 and as president in 1906, when he delivered as his presidential address his exhaustive monograph "On the Art of Cutting Metals" (Ibid., vol. XXVIII, 1907). In 1911 he published The Principles of Scientific Management, and submitted to Congress a report entitled " 'Taylor System' of Shop Management" (House Report 52, 62 Cong., 1 Sess.). In addition to these publications he was joint author with Sanford E. Thompson of two works on concrete, A Treatise on Concrete, Plain and Reinforced (1905) and Concrete Costs (1912). He received about one hundred patents for various inventions during his lifetime. For his process of treating high speed tool steels he received a personal gold medal at the Paris exposition in 1900, and was awarded the Elliott Cresson gold medal that same year by the Franklin Institute, Philadelphia. He was much interested in amateur sports, particularly tennis, and with Clarence M. Clark won the doubles championship of the United States at Newport, R. I., in 1881. He died in Philadelphia of pneumonia, survived by his widow and three adopted children.

SOURCE:
"Frederick Winslow Taylor."Dictionary of American Biography Base Set. American Council of Learned Societies, 1928-1936.
Reproduced in Biography Resource Center. Farmington Hills, Mich.: The Gale Group. 2003. http://www.galenet.com/servlet/BioRC

-- See also an article about Taylor from the period.