History of Ergonomics

The history of ergonomics began in the 1940s, when it emerged as a scientific discipline. It arose by realizing that not all the benefits of technical equipment would be possible if people were unable to understand the full potential of the use of such equipment.

In simple terms, ergonomics is the study and design of the equipment and instruments that best fit the human body and its movement.

History of Ergonomics

Basic ergonomics have existed since the early ancestors of modern man began to create primitive tools to facilitate tasks.

After the Industrial Revolution, the machines and equipment of the factories began to be built with design considerations, which today we would refer to as ergonomic characteristics.

Ergonomics in the modern sense began to become popular during World War II. Military equipment, machinery and weapons - specifically airplanes - became much more complex.

After the innovations of World War II ergonomics continued to flourish, as its principles began to apply to more modern technologies. The science of modern ergonomics includes the work of industrial engineers, occupational physicians and many other fields.

Almost every aspect of modern life includes an ergonomic design level.

Ergonomics in the antiquity

The importance of good design between humans and tools was noticed very early in the development of the species. The history of ergonomics dates back to the time of the earliest humans.

He australopithecus prometheus selected useful stones as tools and made spoons of antelope bones, in a clear attempt to create and select objects to make tasks easier.

Archaeological evidence of tools, hunting equipment and other implements has been found in Egyptian dynasties and in ancient Greece. These tools were man-made and illustrated ergonomic principles quite sophisticated for his time.

Ergonomics in the 20th century

Wojciech Jastrzebowski created the world of ergonomics, in 1857, in a philosophical narrative"based on the truths of science nature". The first concepts to help workers to operate more productively were published in the mid-1900s.

By the mid-1900s, industry production was largely dependent on human power and ergonomic concepts were developed to improve worker efficiency. Scientific management, a method that improves worker efficiency by improving the work process, has become popular.

With the industrial revolution, machines such as the Jenny spinning machine (a machine that produces threads to make cloth) and rolling mills (a method of ironing thin-sheet minerals) were developed to improve work processes. This is the same motivation behind most aspects of ergonomics.

Frederick W. Taylor was a pioneer in this approach and evaluated works to determine the best way in which they could be realized. At Bethlehem Steel, Taylor dramatically increased workers' output and wages on paleo tasks by combining the shovel with the type of material being moved (ashes, minerals, or coal).

Frank and Lillian Gilbreth made jobs more efficient and less stressful through analysis of movement and standardized tools, materials, and the work process.

In applying this process, the number of movements when placing the bricks was reduced from 18 to 4.5, allowing the rate of placement of 120 to 350 bricks per hour to increase.

Most of the designs of this era were created to increase the speed and efficiency of production, rather than creating comfort of use for the workers involved.

Ergonomics in World War II

World War II is considered as the real principle of the study of ergonomics.

World War II gave rise to great interest in the interaction between the human and the machine, since the efficiency of sophisticated military equipment (such as airplanes) could be compromised by poor design or a confusing design.

The concepts of machine design appropriate to the size of the soldier and the control buttons sufficiently understood and logical, evolved.

Experimental psychologists studied air crashes and concluded that many of the accidents occurred due to poor or illogical design concepts that did not take into account the human body. This was the beginning of the study of the human capacities of ergonomics.

Human cognitive characteristics began to be taken into account for the design of the machines. This is how the science of human factors has developed in the context of applied psychology.

Modern ergonomics

Currently, this scientific field not only provides comfortable and safe designs, such as those that prevent human errors and those found in commonly used products; it also expands to areas of medicine, war tools, aviation, traffic, traffic systems and public facilities.

From the 1960s, discipline was extended to computer equipment, followed by the study of software for computers in the 1970s. Later, incorporated the use of Internet and automation of adaptation technology, from the year 2000 .

In the United States, researchers focused on behavioral sciences, such as experimental psychology and technology. For its part, the emphasis in Europe has been on human physiology.

Today, the science of ergonomics is a combination of several disciplines, including psychology, engineering and physiology.

When it comes to ergonomics, it is no longer about physical problems and complaints. The current ergonomics has become a very broad field that seeks more than the prevention of health problems.

His current focus is the question of how to align the human being with the execution of his tasks. If this is done correctly, you can have a lot of time gains and higher productivity levels.


  1. The history of ergonomics. Retrieved from ergosource.com
  2. History of ergonomics (2017). Retrieved from ergoweb.com
  3. A brief history. Retrieved from ergonomics.org.uk
  4. History of ergonomics. Retrieved from ergonomics.jp
  5. The history of ergonomics. Recovered from bakkerelhuizen.com

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