An Exceptional Father - Tribute to Frank Gilbreth

Looking Toward the Future and a Better Life for All

Each new sunrise brings possibilities for change.
Each new sunrise brings possibilities for change. | Source

A Much Needed Rain

Rarely does it rain men like the husband, father, and businessmen described in the biography of Frank Gilbreth. Such men are the life giving waters that quench the desert of mediocrity that so many in America fall into without realization. Many come to think that there is nothing better to expect than a day-to-day survival in order to work, eat, sleep ad infinitum.

Even this mediocrity is a blessing in comparison to the terminal survival of the North Koreans forced to eat only a single meal per day of 2 ounces of rice and ground corn-cob gruel cut with poisonous non-foods as mandated by Dear Leader Kim Jong Il and his Government.

But is mediocrity in life enough? Frank Gilbreth did not believe so.

Time - Motion: Marcel Duchamps. Nude Descending a Staircase 2.
Time - Motion: Marcel Duchamps. Nude Descending a Staircase 2. | Source

Power and Thought

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Lightning - electric powerSlinky- potential and kinetic energy/power.
Lightning - electric power
Lightning - electric power | Source
Slinky- potential and kinetic energy/power.
Slinky- potential and kinetic energy/power. | Source

Frank Bunker Gilbreth

After the American Civil War, Frank Gilbreth was born in 1868, two years before my grandfather.

My grandfather outlived three wives over the course of 90 years and had three sets of children (through the Great Depression of the 1930s) that worked on the two plots of farmland he owned adjacent to one another. These families raised everything they needed, going to town for staples, rather than grinding their own corn. Knowing a little about their lives brings me more understanding of that of Frank Gilbreth, his wife and their dozen children. Life on the farm in Easter Ohio was much harsher, with less technology than in the more industrialized Maine. However, life was not as easy for either of these men as it is today in a Hi Tech country. Frank Glibreth helped to make high technologies of the future happen before the 20th Century even took root.

In Maine, Gilbreth grew up to work as a bricklayer, building contractor, and engineer of management/inventor that began and perfected Time Motion Studies for increased workplace efficiency. The time he saved the American worker and businessman was well spent with family and friends, hobbies, and the invention of even more time-saving technologies for the future.

Gilbreth and Gilbreth, Inc. have not focused on the time factor (just cutting times by moving faster) - they focused on reducing the number and range of motions required (better organization), which makes bosses gape in wonder when an employee finishes quickly and thoroughly with a task when everyone else is frazzled!

Only one example, while on a temporary job at a shipping company after earning a masters degree and having learned Gilbreth's methods earlier, two young executives in new suits walked up to me on Tuesday and asked if I would be finished with my project by the of the week, to which I answered, "I'll be done in 20 MINUTES!" My reward was the task of calling a list of customers and telling them that the company had lost their packages. What fun!

I refused a full-time job at minimum wage, and so would have Frank, if he were not permitted some time of input into task methodologies.

Frank was a member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and the Taylor Society (another engineering group, of whom Taylor focused on moving faster not reducing motions). Gilbreth became a renowned lecturer at Purdue University in Indiana as well. Please see the link to Hot Jobs in Indiana for the emerging new technologies, businesses, and jobs available today.

Improving Bricklaying

Green Efficiency

A Dozen Children

Frank Gilbreth died in 1924, while my grandfather lived on farmlands for the most part until 1959. Gilbreth graduated from high school and my grandfather dropped out of school at the age of 8 in order to work two family farms full-time (his own father died the year the son was born).

Both men had a dozen children. Some of Gilbreth's offspring lived into the late 2000s, but all but one of my grandfather's were dead by the 1990s, likely of backbreaking physical and stressful business work as compared to Gilbreth's children.

Frederick Talyor of the Taylor Society, born in Pennsylvania, an engineer and and an early management consultant in the US, may or may not be a relative along the maternal side of my family. He, too, worked for efficiency and better technologies and was not only a president of the ASME, but also refined and advanced a certain class of slide rules.

Architect Michelle Kaufmann and Efficient Building

Lights and Fresh Rain

A storm passes
A storm passes | Source

Partners in Science and Engineering

Where is my Frank Gilbreth? I have not found him yet, but Lillian Moller certainly found hers.

Lillian Gilbreth married Frank in 1904 after she had already worked with him in his time motion studies in bricklaying. In fact, the entire family later helped the couple perfect time and motion studies and experiment with new ideas in construction and engineering.

Frank Gilbreth invented the original concept of Continuous Improvement solidified and brought forward as a term by Claude George in 1968 and advanced by Six Sigma®.

Lilian earned an BA and MA from the University of California and a PhD. from Brown University. The first woman member of the ASME, she took over Frank's lecturing duties at Purdue and became equally well known and respected as a professor. She is the Madame Curie of engineering technologies and home economics efficiency, known for incorporating industrial psychology into management studies. This is used in Industrial Psychology and work related Public Health sectors today.

Working with Frank as a partner in a good marriage and healthy family supported Lilian to success that few women could have achieved from 1900 - 1972. Synergy is so much more than individual striving very often, especially unhindered by the competition between many couples in the 2000s.

Guiding Lights

A lighthouse standing forward, on guard (public domain).
A lighthouse standing forward, on guard (public domain).

© 2009 Patty Inglish

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Comments 7 comments

MandM 7 years ago

nice hub, very nice indeed


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks

Patty, I enjoyed reading this hub that honored both the achievements of your grandfather and of Frank Gilbreth.

BTW, what was your grandfather's name?


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 7 years ago from North America Author

Great grandfather, grandfather, and an uncle all named Hugh McCaskey Inglish. The first two worked on different ends of the National Road in Ohio at different times. The oldest Hugh and his father John-Walter were contractors, helping to plan the building of the highway and make some of the tools.


Mighty Mom profile image

Mighty Mom 7 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

Beautiful and informative tribute, Patty! Mighty Mom


RKHenry profile image

RKHenry 7 years ago from Your neighborhood museum

Thanks for the remarkable hub!

From a blue jean wearing man.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 7 years ago from North America Author

You're welcome and thanks for the comments.

If the jeans fit, wear them - our pioneers and cowboys certainly did!


trusouldj profile image

trusouldj 5 years ago from Indiana

I loved the original "Cheaper By The Dozen" movie and hated that the newer version was only the same in name only.

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