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A Short History of Ergonomics

history of ergonomics

How did our everyday tools and utensils become so tailored to our forms?

Ergonomics is an important part of everything we interact with today. From cell phones and computers to hammers and shovels, not a thing is made with a consideration of ergonomics. But how did this become such a big part of our lives without us even knowing it? This week we are going to look at the history of ergonomics and how it became what it is today.

Early Tools

From mankinds earliest tools there’s always been a need for a “good fit” between a person and the tools they use. Natural items like stones and sticks were chosen as tools because of the way humans could hold and operate them. Those that didn’t fit the most basic idea of being ergonomic simply weren’t used.

Industrial Revolution

During the Industrial Revolution the idea of matching or specializing a tool to a job became popular. Either new tools were invented to help speed up work, or existing tools were improved to increase workers’ production.

World War II

As military equipment became more and more advanced, engineers began to look more closely at how humans and machines interacted. This was epitomized in the airplanes being used at the time. Military engineers designed and built airplanes based on the idea that pilots fit into the idea of the “average-sized” American. The Air Force had a problem with recruits crashing during training and couldn’t understand why. After some research they found out that not a single pilot in the Air Force fit the dimensions of an average American man, and that they all had trouble operating the planes because of it. Planes were then built with more adjustable controls to accommodate pilots of different sizes, and the recruits became much more successful.


Nowadays, ergonomics is focused on how a tool is most functional while having the least impact on the operator. Split keyboards help reduce the likelihood of repetitive use injuries while increasing typing speed. Ergonomic chairs help prevent lower back injuries while allowing workers to sit comfortably for a larger amount of time.

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This entry was posted on Friday, August 26th, 2016 at 7:53 pm. Both comments and pings are currently closed.