Lillian Moller Gilbreth, Ph.D.

Lillian Moller Gilbreth, Ph.D.

1878 – 1972

Created work and motion study for improving efficiency

Lillian Evelyn Moller was born on May 24, 1878 in Oakland, California and was the oldest of nine children. Lillian was schooled at home until she began public school at the age of nine. She did very well academically throughout her school career.   After high school Lillian attended the University of California at Berkley where she majored in English literature, and also took some psychology classes. In 1900 she graduated from Berkeley with honors and was asked to give a speech at commencement. She was the first woman in Berkeley`s history to receive that honor.

Lillian received her master`s degree in English literature from Berkeley in 1902.   The next summer she went on a trip to Europe where she met Frank Gilbreth. They soon became engaged and were married on October 19, 1904. They moved to Boston, where Lillian continued her studies in psychology.   Frank and Lillian became successful business partners and had 12 children together. They also studied efficiency in a variety of settings and they wrote several books together.

Lillian received her Ph.D. from Brown University in 1915. Frank passed away suddenly from a heart attack in 1924, which left Lillian alone to provide for their twelve children. Many of the Gilbreth`s clients cancelled their contracts because they did not want to work with a woman.  Eventually Lillian was able to build up her reputation and became a consultant for some large companies, such as Macy`s. She also taught at several universities, until she became a full time professor at Purdue in 1935. She taught there until she retired in 1948 at the age of 70. Lillian was active in the field of psychology and management until the age of 90. She passed away on January 2, 1972 in Phoenix, Arizona at the age of 93.   

Scientific Achievements

Lillian Gilbreth had many accomplishments throughout her life and career. She and Frank wrote some books together about their management style, includingConcrete System(1908), Bricklaying System(1909), Motion Study(1911), and A Primer of Scientific Management(1912). Lillian`s name never appeared on any of the books though because the publishers thought that a woman`s name on the book could jeopardize its success.

During the Great Depression President Herbert Hoover asked Lillian to join the Emergency Committee for Unemployment. She accepted the offer and she created a program called “Share the Work.” The program successfully created new jobs throughout industry.

Lillian Gilbreth. Wikipedia.