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“The first case of scientific time‐study that I ever saw...”: G.A. Wentworth's impact on F.W. Taylor

Aleksey A. Tikhomirov (School of Education and Center for Leadership Studies, Binghamton University, State University of New York, Binghamton, New York, USA)

Journal of Management History

ISSN: 1751-1348

Article publication date: 27 September 2011

Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to investigate the merit of Fred Taylor's claim that he did not conceive the notion of time study on his own. He insisted that he acquired it while a student at Phillips Exeter Academy and identified the particular individual to whom, he claimed, he owed his earliest exposure to time study – George A. “Bull” Wentworth.

Design/methodology/approach

Drawing on archival material, including a recently discovered letter by Taylor, this paper substantiates Taylor's claims regarding his association with Wentworth. By corroborating existing and new evidence of the Wentworth‐Taylor link, it probes into the nature and the scope of the influence of the “Old Bull” of Exeter on the father of scientific management.

Findings

Taylor did not conceive of time study on his own but acquired it early in his life via traceable socialization influences, many of which came from Wentworth. Such influences were both substantive and lasting: the residue of Wentworth's methodology is distinct in Taylor's early and later time study work. Taken together, both internal and external consistency of the evidence has led me to assert that it is plausible that Wentworth had a traceable and lasting socialization impact on Frederick Taylor.

Originality/value

This paper is a rare inquiry into the part of Taylor's life history that precedes his pioneering of the industrial, managerial, and economic applications of time study. It grounds the matter of Taylor's conceiving the time study idea into the context of his early‐in‐life socialization – an important subject left largely unexplored by Taylor's biographers and the historians of the scientific management movement.

Keywords

Citation

Tikhomirov, A.A. (2011), "“The first case of scientific time‐study that I ever saw...”: G.A. Wentworth's impact on F.W. Taylor", Journal of Management History, Vol. 17 No. 4, pp. 356-378. https://doi.org/10.1108/17511341111164391

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited