Beginning in the 1870s a handful of scientists began to study the world of work. By the 1920s the resultant changes in the organisation and functioning of the factory and the office had come to affect the working lives of millions.
Men like F. W. Taylor and Henry Ford dreamed of increasing the efficiency of the production process while improving the provision of welfare for the workers. But these high ideals were not always in harmony, and 'time and motion' was soon accused of making 'every man merely a cog or a nut or a pin in a big machine . . . ' by one Samuel Gompers in 1911.
This is the story of how the worker was transformed into an object of scientific study. It is a story involving stopwatches and slide rules, conveyor belts and chronocyclegraphs, selection tests and selection boxes. Above all, it is a chapter in the tortuous story of the relationship between capitalism and labour.
The ideas were simple but their effects were profound. Promoted by just a few individuals, the science of work changed the world forever.