Lillian Moller Gilbreth Biography


Birthday: May 24, 1878 (Gemini)

Born In: Oakland, California, United States

Lillian Gilbreth was an American psychologist and industrial engineer hailed to be the first true industrial/organizational psychologist. A well-educated woman, she was among the first working female engineers to hold a Ph.D. Considered to be the mother of modern management, she along with her husband Frank pioneered several industrial management study techniques and made major contributions to fields such as motion study and human factors. As the parents of 12 children, the couple applied their scientific management principles to the running of their large household. Gilbreth was born into a large family in Oakland, California, and grew up to be an intelligent and ambitious girl. After graduating from the University of California in 1900 with a bachelor's degree in English literature she proceeded to complete her master’s degree and also earned her Ph.D. Following her marriage and the birth of her numerous children, she began applying the principles of scientific management to household tasks in order to complete the chores in a more efficient and time-saving manner. In addition to being a busy mother, she helped companies such as Johnson & Johnson and Macy's with their management departments. She also worked along with her husband in the management consulting firm of Gilbreth, Inc., which performed time and motion study.
Quick Facts

Also Known As: Lillian Evelyn Gilbreth

Died At Age: 93


Spouse/Ex-: Frank Bunker Gilbreth Sr.

father: Frank Bunker Gilbreth Sr.

children: Anne M. Gilbreth, Daniel B. Gilbreth, Ernestine Gilbreth Carey, Frank Bunker Gilbreth Jr., Frederick M. Gilbreth, John M. Gilbreth, Lillian M. Gilbreth, Martha B. Gilbreth, Mary Elizabeth Gilbreth, William Gilbreth

Engineers Educators

Died on: January 2, 1972

place of death: Phoenix, Arizona, United States

U.S. State: California

City: Oakland, California

More Facts

education: University of California, Berkeley, Brown University

awards: Hoover Medal

Childhood & Early Life
Lillian Evelyn Moller was born on May 24, 1878, in Oakland, California, as the second of 11 children of William Moller, a builder's supply merchant, and Annie Delger. Her parents were of German descent.
She received her early education at home and then joined a public elementary school. She went on to graduate from Oakland High School with excellent grades in May 1896.
She studied English literature at the University of California and graduated in 1900 with a bachelor's degree. She then proceeded to the Columbia University for her master’s degree. There she became familiar with the subject of psychology. However due to ill health she had to return home and finished her master's degree in literature at the University of California in 1902.
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Later Years
During a vacation in Europe she met Frank Gilbreth and married him in 1904. Both of them shared an interest in studying the efficiency in the workplace and the principles of scientific management.
Over the ensuing years they had many children, and Lillian very efficiently managed her duties as a mother along with her professional obligations. In fact, having a number of children helped her in studying group dynamics and she applied scientific principles to the management of her own household.
The pioneering woman also began working on her doctorate and completed her Ph.D from Brown University in 1915 with a dissertation on efficient teaching methods called ‘Some Aspects of Eliminating Waste in Teaching’. It was the first degree granted in industrial psychology.
Along with her husband, she became a partner in the management consulting firm of Gilbreth, Inc. which performed time and motion study. While Frank was concerned with the technical aspects of worker efficiency, Lillian was more interested in the human aspects of time management.
She realized that there were several direct and indirect factors that motivated workers to put in their best which included money and job satisfaction. By collaborating with Frank she helped to create job standardization, incentive wage-plans, and job simplification. She also recognized the effects of fatigue and stress on time management.
Lillian Gilbreth was involved with the marketing research on sanitary napkins for Johnson & Johnson in 1926. Her training as a psychologist, and her image as a mother and a modern career woman helped the company build consumer trust. She also worked with the management department of Macy's.
She was friends with President Herbert Hoover and his wife Lou Henry Hoover, and joined the Girl Scouts as a consultant in 1929 at the request of Lou. Later on she became a member of the board of directors, and remained active in the organization for more than 20 years.
During the Hoover administration, she worked on and headed the women's section of the President's Emergency Committee for Employment in 1930. She remained active in government work during the World War II as well and acted as an advisor to several governmental groups, providing expertise on education and labor.
She was also active as an educator. She had been lecturing at Purdue University since 1925 and was made a visiting professor in 1935, becoming the first female engineering professor at Purdue. In 1940 she was granted full professorship and taught in the departments of industrial engineering, industrial psychology, and home economics.
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Major Works
Lillian Gilbreth is regarded as the first true industrial/organizational psychologist for her immense contribution to the study of the psychological aspects of industrial engineering. As the co-founder of Gilbreth, Inc., she performed research in time and motion study with her husband and also researched on fatigue study.
Awards & Achievements
She was made a member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers in 1926 and was later awarded (jointly with her husband), the Henry Laurence Gantt Medal in 1944 for her contributions to industrial engineering.
In 1965, she became the first woman to be elected to the National Academy of Engineering.
She received the Hoover Medal, an engineering prize awarded jointly by five engineering societies in 1966.
Personal Life & Legacy
She met her future husband Frank Bunker Gilbreth, Sr. in June 1903 and married him the next year. The couple had 13 children including a stillborn in 1915. Eleven of the remaining children survived to adulthood.
The children often took part in the experiments conducted by their parents. Two of them authored the books ‘Cheaper by the Dozen’ and ‘Belles on Their Toes’, telling of stories about their vibrant family life.
Lillian Gilbreth died on January 2, 1972.
The Lillian M. Gilbreth Lectureships were established in her honor in 2001 by the National Academy of Engineering, to recognize outstanding young American engineers.
The Society of Women Engineers awards the Lillian Moller Gilbreth Memorial Scholarship to deserving female engineering undergraduates.
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