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Lillian Evelyn Moller Gilbreth Edit Profile

Engineer , Psychologist

Lillian Evelyn Moller Gilbreth was an American psychologist and industrial engineer, who was the first to apply psychology to time-and-motion studies.


Lillian Evelyn Moller Gilbreth was born on May 24, 1878, in Oakland, California, United States. She was the daughter of William Moller, a builder's supply merchant, and Annie Delger Moller.


Lillian was educated at home until the age of nine. In May 1896 she graduated with exemplary grades from Oakland High School. Later, Gilbreth entered the University of California in Berkeley, California, United States and in 1900 she attained Bachelor of Arts degree in English literature. Some time later, she entered Columbia University in order to get Master of Arts degree. But Moller had to return home because of her poor health and attained Master of Arts degree at the University of California in Berkeley in 1902. Thirteen years later, in 1915, Lillian got her Doctor of Philosophy degree in psychology at Brown University.

During her lifetime, Lillian received over a dozen honorary degrees.


Approximately from 1905 to 1910 Moller worked as a systems manager in her husband's consulting business and was soon acknowledged as an expert in the study of worker fatigue and production. The following year, in 1911, she delivered lecture at the Dartmouth College Conference on Scientific Management. This lecture on the relationship between management and psychology became the basis for her doctoral dissertation.

In 1913 Frank and Lillian Gilbreth founded the Summer School of Scientific Management. The school trained professionals to teach new ideas about management, and it emphasized the study of motion and psychology. Tuition was free, admission was by invitation and classes were well attended by professors and business people from the United States and abroad. The Gilbreths ran the summer school for four years. Her dissertation had already been published as a book, The Psychology of Management, in 1914.

Gilbreth became a well respected businesswoman by 1924. Johnson & Johnson hired her consulting firm to train their employees, and Macy's in New York had her study the working conditions of their salespeople to investigate techniques to reduce fatigue. Dennison & Co and Sears & Roebuck were also clients, among many others.

She started a new school called Gilbreth Research Associates, which catered to retail interests and went international in 1926. But by 1929, several universities were modeling motion in their engineering schools, using laboratories complete with photographic devices and movement measurement tools. Convinced that her ideas would now be carried on, she closed Gilbreth Research Associates. That same year she traveled to Tokyo to speak at the First World Power Congress.

During that time Gilbreth was lecturing at universities such as Stanford, Harvard, Yale and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She joined the Purdue University faculty in 1935 as a professor of management, becoming the first woman professor in the engineering school.

When America entered World War II, Gilbreth consulted at the Arma Plant in Brooklyn, New York, which handled huge Navy contracts. The staff at the plant grew from a few hundred to eleven thousand men and women, and she managed the personnel restructuring and worker training for this enormous expansion.

In 1948, Gilbreth began teaching at the Newark College of Engineering in New Jersey. She was the first woman professor in this school of engineering as well, and she stayed there for two years. Lillian went on to teach in Formosa from 1953 to 1954 and at the University of Wisconsin in 1955.

Gilbreth remained active professionally well into her eighties, speaking and writing on management issues.


  • Lillian Gilbreth was one of the founders of modern industrial management. She brought psychology to the study of management in the early twentieth century and then brought them both to the forefront of the business world.

    Moller broke new ground with her book The Psychology of Management, which concerned the health of the industrial worker. An outstanding academician who developed new curricula for major universities throughout the United States, Gilbreth became widely known for making human relations an integral part of management theory and practice.

    Among her contributions were the analysis of machinery and tools, the invention of new tools and the methods to simplify their use and the standardization of tasks. Most importantly, her work led to a greater understanding of the importance of the welfare of individual in business operations. This was instrumental in broadening acceptance of her husband's work on increasing productivity.

    Especially notable was her development of an exercise program for the women.

    In 1965, she became the first woman elected to the National Academy of Engineering.


  • American Society of Mechanical Engineers , United States


  • the first honorary member

    Society of Women Engineers , United States


  • honorary member

    Mortar Board , United States



Lillian Miller married Frank Bunker Gilbreth on October 19, 1904. The Gilbreths had thirteen children, three of them gained success in career. They were Ernestine Gilbreth Carey, Frank Bunker Gilbreth, Jr. and Robert M. Gilbreth.

William Moller - merchant

Annie Delger Moller

Ernestine Gilbreth Carey - American - author
Ernestine Gilbreth Carey - child of Lillian Gilbreth

Frank Bunker Gilbreth Jr. - American - journalist , author
Frank Bunker Gilbreth Jr. - child of Lillian Gilbreth

Robert Moller Gilbreth - American - businessman , politician

Frank Bunker Gilbreth - American - Engineer
Frank Bunker Gilbreth - Husband of Lillian Gilbreth