Academic journal article Journal of Applied Management and Entrepreneurship

The Flying Horse: Eadweard Muybridge's Contribution to Motion Study

Academic journal article Journal of Applied Management and Entrepreneurship

The Flying Horse: Eadweard Muybridge's Contribution to Motion Study

Article excerpt

Executive Summary

The contributions of Frank and Lillian Gilbreth stand out as milestones in the development of the field of management. Although the Gilbreths engaged in the most extensive study of human motion in industry, they in no way originated the field of motion study. This paper is devoted to exposing management scholars to the first person to use photography to identify and catalog human motion, Eadweard James Muybridge. Although Muybridge's contributions to the field of management are indirect, they are profound. This paper traces the history of Muybridge, and links his accomplishments in the development of motion photography to the use of photography in the study of human motion, and subsequently to the field of management. Whereas the intent of this manuscript is not to assuage the recognition given to the Gilbreths, it is to recognize the contributions of Muybridge to the Gilbreths' work.

Contribution to Motion Study

Frank B. and Lillian M. Gilbreth, two of the most widely recognized pioneers in the field of management, distinguished themselves largely through their motion study techniques (Lindstrom, 2000). In motion study, the movements involved in a job are investigated and measured to develop an easier, more productive, and less fatiguing method (Shaw, 1960). Frank Gilbreth was driven by the belief that "there is no waste of any kind in the world that equals the waste from needless, ill-directed, and ineffective motions" (Gilbreth, 1911, 2). His lifelong quest to determine the "one best way" to perform a task and to eliminate waste earned Frank the sobriquet the "father of motion study" (Bedeian, 1976).

Motion study in industry began when Frank, at the age of 17, passed up the opportunity to attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to become financially independent working as a bricklayer (Shaw, 1960). While trying to learn his new trade, Frank noticed that the experienced bricklayers performed their job using three different sets of motions. Frank deduced that of these three sets of motion, one set for working slowly and deliberately, one set for working rapidly, and a third set when trying to educate helpers, only one set was the "right" one. Gilbreth proceeded to study the bricklayers' methods and eventually was able to cut the motions required to lay a single brick from 18 to five (Gilbreth & Gilbreth, 1917). This was only the beginning of a lifelong quest to improve efficiency through motion analysis. When Frank met and married Lillian Moller some years later she became a partner in his work. Lillian enthusiastically took up the cause of motion study and the two of them published many articles and books on the subject.

The works of Frank and Lillian Gilbreth laid the foundation for job simplification and much can still be learned from their systematic methods of eliminating waste and inefficiency (Sullivan, 1995). Perhaps their most outstanding contribution was the use of motion pictures to record and analyze time and motions (Person, 1945; Watt, 1921). Their methods, which during the industrial age allowed for the reduction of wasted motion and fatigue, are the antecedents of research today in fields such as carpal tunnel syndrome and ergonomics (Kernan, 1998). As may be gathered from the title, however, this is not yet another paper extolling the virtues of Frank and Lillian Gilbreth. Although the Gilbreths' contributions to the field of management are considerable and well deserving of the attention they have received, this is instead a look beyond the obvious, beyond those that have repeatedly been linked to the field, to those whose enterprising endeavors and inventions made the Gilbreths' work possible.

The True "Father of Motion Study"?

This is a look at a man who is perhaps the true "father of motion study," Eadweard James Muybridge. Although we have traditionally assumed the Gilbreths to be the first to use motionpicture cameras to study workers' motions (Bedeian, 1976), and the first to use motion study to an economic advantage in industry (Mandel, 1989), Muybridge was the first to use photography to freeze rapid action to identify and catalog human motion for analysis and study. …

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