Frederick Winslow Taylor

Frederick Winslow Taylor

Born 20 March 1856 (1856-03-20)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania U.S.
Died 21 March 1915 (1915-03-22)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania U.S.
Cause of death pneumonia
Resting place West Laurel Hill Cemetery
Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania U.S.
Nationality American
Occupation efficiency expert
management consultant
Known for "Father" of the
Scientific management
& Efficiency Movement
Spouse(s) Louise M. Spooner
Children Kempton, Robert and Elizabeth (all adopted orphans)
Parents Franklin Taylor
Emily Annette Winslow
Awards Elliott Cresson Medal (1902)
Frederick Winslow Taylor (March 20, 1856–March 21, 1915), widely known as F. W. Taylor, was an American mechanical engineer who sought to improve industrial efficiency. He is regarded as the father of scientific management and was one of the first management consultants.

Taylor was one of the intellectual leaders of the Efficiency Movement and his ideas, broadly conceived, were highly influential in the Progressive Era.


Taylor was born in 1856 to a wealthy Quaker family in Germantown, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Taylor's ancestor, Samuel Taylor, settled in Burlington, New Jersey, in 1677. Taylor's father, Franklin Taylor, a Princeton-educated lawyer, built his wealth on mortgages. Taylor's mother, Emily Annette Taylor (née Winslow), was an ardent abolitionist and a coworker with Lucretia Mott. Educated early by his mother, Taylor studied for two years in France and Germany and traveled Europe for 18 months. In 1872, he entered Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, New Hampshire.

Upon graduation, Taylor was accepted at Harvard Law. However, due to rapidly deteriorating eyesight, Taylor had to consider an alternative career. After the depression of 1873, Taylor became an industrial apprentice patternmaker, gaining shop-floor experience at a pump-manufacturing company, Enterprise Hydraulic Works, in Philadelphia. Taylor's career progressed in 1878 when he became a machine shop laborer at Midvale Steel Works. At Midvale, Taylor was promoted to gang-boss, foreman, research director, and finally chief engineer of the works. Taylor became a student of Stevens Institute of Technology, studying via correspondence and obtaining a degree in mechanical engineering in 1883. On May 3, 1884, he married Louise M. Spooner of Philadelphia.

From 1890 until 1893 Taylor worked as a general manager and a consulting engineer to management for the Manufacturing Investment Company of Philadelphia, a company that operated large paper mills in Maine and Wisconsin. He spent time as a plant manager in Maine. In 1893, Taylor opened an independent consulting practice in Philadelphia. His business card read "Systematizing Shop Management and Manufacturing Costs a Specialty". In 1898, Taylor joined Bethlehem Steel, where he, Maunsel White, and a team of assistants developed high speed steel. 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 Medal that same year by the Franklin Institute, Philadelphia. Taylor was forced to leave Bethlehem Steel in 1901 after antagonisms with other managers. In 1901, Frederick and Louise Taylor adopted three orphans Kempton, Robert and Elizabeth.

On October 19, 1906, Taylor was awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Science by the University of Pennsylvania. Taylor eventually became a professor at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College. Late winter of 1915 Taylor caught pneumonia and one day after his fifty-ninth birthday, on March 21, he died. He was buried in West Laurel Hill Cemetery, in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania.


Taylor was a mechanical engineer who sought to improve industrial efficiency. Taylor is regarded as the father of scientific management, and was one of the first management consultants and director of a famous firm. In Peter Drucker's description,

Frederick W. Taylor was the first man in recorded history who deemed work deserving of systematic observation and study. On Taylor's 'scientific management' rests, above all, the tremendous surge of affluence in the last seventy-five years which has lifted the working masses in the developed countries well above any level recorded before, even for the well-to-do. Taylor, though the Isaac Newton (or perhaps the Archimedes) of the science of work, laid only first foundations, however. Not much has been added to them since - even though he has been dead all of sixty years.

Taylor was also an accomplished tennis player, who won the first doubles tournament in the 1881 U.S. National Championships, the precursor of the U.S. Open, with Clarence Clark.

Scientific management

Taylor believed that the industrial management of his day was amateurish, that management could be formulated as an academic discipline, and that the best results would come from the partnership between a trained and qualified management and a cooperative and innovative workforce. Each side needed the other, and there was no need for trade unions.

Future U.S. Supreme Court justice Louis Brandeis coined the term scientific management in the course of his argument for the Eastern Rate Case before the Interstate Commerce Commission in 1910. Brandeis debated that railroads, when governed according to the principles of Taylor, did not need to raise rates to increase wages. Taylor used Brandeis's term in the title of his monograph The Principles of Scientific Management, published in 1911. The Eastern Rate Case propelled Taylor's ideas to the forefront of the management agenda. Taylor wrote to Brandeis "I have rarely seen a new movement started with such great momentum as you have given this one." Taylor's approach is also often referred to, as Taylor's Principles, or frequently disparagingly, as Taylorism. Taylor's scientific management consisted of four principles:

  1. Replace rule-of-thumb work methods with methods based on a scientific study of the tasks.
  2. Scientifically select, train, and develop each employee rather than passively leaving them to train themselves.
  3. Provide "Detailed instruction and supervision of each worker in the performance of that worker's discrete task" (Montgomery 1997: 250).
  4. Divide work nearly equally between managers and workers, so that the managers apply scientific management principles to planning the work and the workers actually perform the tasks.

Managers and workers

Taylor had very precise ideas about how to introduce his system:

It is only through enforced standardization of methods, enforced adoption of the best implements and working conditions, and enforced cooperation that this faster work can be assured. And the duty of enforcing the adoption of standards and enforcing this cooperation rests with management alone.

Workers were supposed to be incapable of understanding what they were doing. According to Taylor this was true even for rather simple tasks.

'I can say, without the slightest hesitation,' Taylor told a congressional committee, 'that the science of handling pig-iron is so great that the man who is ... physically able to handle pig-iron and is sufficiently phlegmatic and stupid to choose this for his occupation is rarely able to comprehend the science of handling pig-iron.

The introduction of his system was often resented by workers and provoked numerous strikes. The strike at Watertown Arsenal led to the congressional investigation in 1912. Taylor believed the labourer was worthy of his hire, and pay was linked to productivity. His workers were able to earn substantially more than those in similar industries and this earned him enemies among the owners of factories where scientific management was not in use.

Propaganda techniques

Taylor promised to reconcile labor and capital.

With the triumph of scientific management, unions would have nothing left to do, and they would have been cleansed of their most evil feature: the restriction of output. To underscore this idea, Taylor fashioned the myth that 'there has never been a strike of men working under scientific management', trying to give it credibility by constant repetition. In similar fashion he incessantly linked his proposals to shorter hours of work, without bothering to produce evidence of "Taylorized" firms that reduced working hours, and he revised his famous tale of Schmidt carrying pig iron at Bethlehem Steel at least three times, obscuring some aspects of his study and stressing others, so that each successive version made Schmidt's exertions more impressive, more voluntary and more rewarding to him than the last. Unlike [Harrington] Emerson, Taylor was not a charlatan, but his ideological message required the suppression of all evidence of worker's dissent, of coercion, or of any human motives or aspirations other than those his vision of progress could encompass.

Management theory

Taylor thought that by analyzing work, the "One Best Way" to do it would be found. He is most remembered for developing the time and motion study. He would break a job into its component parts and measure each to the hundredth of a minute. One of his most famous studies involved shovels. He noticed that workers used the same shovel for all materials. He determined that the most effective load was 21½ lb, and found or designed shovels that for each material would scoop up that amount. He was generally unsuccessful in getting his concepts applied and was dismissed from Bethlehem Steel. It was largely through the efforts of his disciples (most notably H.L. Gantt) that industry came to implement his ideas. Nevertheless, the book he wrote after parting company with Bethlehem Steel, Shop Management, sold well

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