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The History of Ergonomics

The basics of the science of Ergonomics can be traced back to the way of life of the ancient Greeks. A reliable source of evidence shows that in the 5th century, Helenic civilization made use of the principles of Ergonomics to create tools, jobs and places of work as well. A proof to support this can be found in the details given by what a surgeon's place of work should be; and how the tools he uses should be fashioned out and arranged, as pointed out by Hippocrates. Similarly, archaeological records also reveal that the Egyptian Dynasties designed tools, household equipment and other products which all reflect great principles of Ergonomics!

Etymologically, "Ergonomics" is derived from two Greek words, "Ergon" and "nomos" which means work and natural law, respectively. This Greek word found its way into the modern lexicon in 1857 when Wojciech used the word in his article.

In the 19th century a man named Frederick Winslow Taylor started a method of "Scientific Management" which sought to find out the optimum method to carry out a task effectively. For example, this man discovered that he could increase the amount of coal being shoveled by his workers if only he could reduce the size and weight of the coal shovels until he attained the fastest rate of shoveling. Taylor's method was expanded upon by Lillian and Gilbreth in the early 1900s in order to create their method titled "Time and Motion Studies". They also improved by eradicating unnecessary steps and actions. Using this method, Gilberth reduced the number of motions in bricklaying from 18 to 4.5, allowing brick productivity to shoot up to around 120~350 per hour.

Ergonomics has grown over the years. On a daily basis, irrespective of where we find ourselves today and we still need to constantly find answers to questions through innovative ways of Ergonomics. People are uniquely different, often with different shapes and sizes, different limitations and abilities in strength, skills, speed and judgment. So, an ergonomist usually considers factors of this line in order to bring about a solution that works. In Ergonomics, to able to solve problems effectively, one needs to be sound in psychology and physiology and make his or her result perfect with an engineering approach. That is the beauty of this science!


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