Monday, September 21, 2015

Who is the link between Frederick W. Taylor and Batman?

by Scott Smith (

Of the thousands of items in the Samuel C. Williams Library’s Frederick Winslow Taylor Collection, my hands-down favorite is the correspondence between Taylor and Scudder Klyce, whose 1921 book, Universe, influenced comic book writer Alan Grant’s creation of Anarky, an adversary of Batman.
Taylor and Klyce exchanged letters steadily between June 1911 and November 1914; however, the 65 pages of correspondence written between the two in June 1911, make for a fascinating look at both men’s views of scientific management as something more than a way of running a shop floor. Klyce’s first letter to Taylor, dated June 2, 1911, was written the same day that Klyce had attended a talk Taylor gave at the School of Marine Engineering in Philadelphia. Showing no lack of self-confidence, the 31-year-old Klyce, a Naval officer, began his letter, “Since hearing your talk this morning some comments have occurred to me which probably will be of interest to you, and which may be of value.” He then continued--for eight pages--to explain to Taylor why Taylor’s principles are correct and to outline his own theory of economics and the bonus system. The letter is a wonder of graphology: handwritten in ink, with words closely spaced; the lines slanting slightly up to the right. He concluded with, “This is all very condensed and I shall be glad to expand any of it which does not seem sufficiently proved,” followed by an offer to meet personally with Taylor to talk more. In short, it’s a letter that, not just by its content but also by its length, appearance, and the fact that it was written on the same day the writer had heard Taylor speak, hints at the personality behind the pen.
Taylor, because he had been traveling, didn’t receive the letter until June 6, when he promptly replied, “Your letter is intensely interesting to me, and I should especially appreciate the opportunity of making your acquaintance.” Klyce responded the same day, June 6, with a 12-page letter proclaiming scientific management as “the practical religion” that will, incidentally, “reform dogmatic science.” A few pages later, Klyce hints at his pursuit of the unifying philosophy that he will eventually describe in Universe:
I have been talking with a few scientists during the past week, as I have unified a few of their theories, and the narrowness of the scientist professor is pitiful; they define science as only that which can be put into a mathematical equation, and when I quoted experimental proof that the usual statement of the law of gravity was not absolutely accurate under any natural conditions and explained why, they could not controvert the proof but claimed that because the variation was so small that it could not be measured by science that it was not science.
And in a nine-page follow-up two days later to further outline his thinking on scientific management and religion, he writes:
Now, I have not written you the proof of this moral law; I have it poorly written down in about two hundred pages (emphasis mine), going at it from a scientific point of view. I haven’t found a scientist yet who would attack any part of this science, my statement of which is not conventional, and I have tried about a dozen.
Taylor’s subsequent responses to Klyce express appreciation for Klyce’s thinking about scientific management and encourage him to write up his ideas for publication in a national magazine, such as the Atlantic Monthly or the Century, with the suggestion that he “not go into such great detail that the ordinary readers will not have time to follow you.” In a 16-page letter written between June 14 and June 20, Klyce tells Taylor that he has started to write the article, and, in going over his ideas for the article he mentions his work on what will become Universe:
I know these various principles concerning scientific management because I have finished about the fourth or fifth revision of a book I am writing on handling men, which subject I have been studying systematically for some years…. This book first led me into a verbal statement of what all the vague mathematics of science really meant, and this led to a simple reduction of everything to terms of energy, whatever that may be--its nature is the unknown. I incidentally solved the Boyden problem--whether all rays of light travel with the same speed in space, the answer being no--for the Franklin Institute, and they are worrying over this solution; and I explained the mechanism of gravity, heat, light, and electricity, and the composition of matter, and eliminated the kinetic theory, and proved that the law of conservation of weight is wrong by experimentation and theoretical proof, and proved the total structure of the universe which I derived theoretically by the experimental evidence of star drift, and it can be understood by anyone; at least I think I have done this, and a number of scientists are trying to find out if I have….
He concludes this description with, “I am in a position to appreciate the value of your work, and I am very glad I can state some of the reasons fairly clearly. I can take the theory back just as far as anyone can follow, and then a little further--the limit is the unknown.”
Whether he was influenced by Klyce’s flattery--and Klyce claimed repeatedly that he didn’t intend to flatter--or whether he genuinely believed in Klyce’s work, Taylor encouraged Klyce. On June 26, he wrote a letter to Ray Stannard Baker, an influential journalist, in which he recommended Klyce as a writer, describing him as having, “remarkably sound ideas. He has analyzed our system in its philosophical relation much more thoroughly than anyone has done before. It seems to me that his analysis is sound.” That same day, he wrote to Klyce:
I have vaguely felt all along, when I was endeavoring to formulate the principles of scientific management, that I had not anywhere near “reached bottom,” and I feel now that your analytical mind and long years of honest thought in philosophical matters are just what is needed to tie up our practical results and the plain every-day formulae to the true fundamental theory.
There is room for any number of leaders in this movement, and after reading your letters with a great deal of care, it appears to me that you are just the man to lead in this more fundamental direction.
From this point, the correspondence between Klyce and Taylor focuses primarily on the article that Klyce is trying to write, with an eye on publishing it in the Atlantic Monthly magazine. In mid-July 1911, Klyce visited Taylor at Taylor’s mother-in-law’s home in Plymouth, Massachusetts. The two worked on revising the article, which Taylor described in a July 25 letter to Baker as being, “too deep for the every day reader.”
Klyce’s article was turned down by the Atlantic Monthly. In August, he suffered a nervous breakdown, and his wife, Etheldreda, revised the article, which was published under her name in the November 18, 1911, issue of The Outlook, a popular weekly magazine. Despite taking a leave of absence from his job and traveling to England to recover, Klyce was forced to retire from the Navy in 1912. He settled in Winchester, Massachusetts, where he continued to work on Universe and corresponded with many notable writers and philosophers of his time, including John Dewey and Upton Sinclair. Although Klyce and Taylor never met again after July 1911, they continued to write one another through 1914. These letters depict Klyce working on his book and expressing his continued praise for scientific management. Taylor died in March 1915. Six years later, Klyce published Universe, a book, he noted in the preface, that “unifies or qualitatively solves science, religion, and philosophy--basing everything on experimental, verifiable evidence.” He hadn’t forgotten Taylor, of whom he wrote:
Taylor’s doctrine of scientific management… is perhaps the most explicit and extensive advance in ethics or the science of living that has been made since Christ…. Taylor was a supremely great man. He was a democrat more beautifully balanced than Lincoln. (218)

Scudder Klyce was referenced as an influence to Batman nemesis, Anarky.

The legacy of Taylor will be explored this week at Stevens at the Taylor’s World Conference, held on campus, Thursday and Friday, September 24-25. If you would like to learn more about Taylor and his continued influence on modern life,  you may register to attend here:

Monday, September 14, 2015

Where Are You From? by Vicky Ludas Orlofsky (

To mark the beginning of the new school year, the Library debuted two maps at the Open House on September 2. One a world map and one a map of New Jersey, they have been on display since last week so members of the Stevens community can mark their home region. Both maps have been getting a lot of attention, so much so that we ran out of map pins and have been using thumbtacks!

Map - USA - Sep 10 2015
World map, closeup on North and South America. Map credit: Photo credit: Romel Espinel, Sept. 10, 2015.

It’s been fascinating to see where the Stevens community -- primarily students, but also staff and faculty -- come from. Given the popularity of Stevens among New Jersey residents, we knew we’d better include a map specifically of the Garden State, but it appears that next year, we should also include maps of China and India, as those countries are greatly represented by our graduate students.

Map - EUrope Asia - Sept 10 2015
World map, closeup on Asia. Map credit: Photo credit: Romel Espinel, Sept. 10, 2015.

Map - NJ closeup - Sept 10 2015
Map of New Jersey, closeup on Hoboken and surrounding areas. Map credit: Kappa Map Group. Photo credit: Romel Espinel, Sept. 10, 2015.

Have you stuck in a pin yet? Stop by and show everyone where you’re from! The maps will be on display through the month of September in the Great Hall.

The latest map as of Monday, September 14:

Map credit: Photo credit: Romel Espinel.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Frederick Taylor, Father of Scientific Management, Class of 1883
by Margaret DiGerolamo

Frederick Winslow Taylor was an influential thinker of the early 20th century and credited as the father of  Scientific Management which contributed to a revolution in the way that the industrial world worked. He explored how to increase productivity by using workers’ time more efficiently. Instead of the old process of one worker taking on the production from raw materials to final product, he split up the work so that one worker would be in charge of one part of the process, and, in turn, the process would go much faster. While he could be persuasive, he also was very specific—to the point of stubbornness—about how others should follow his method and about what his ideas entailed. One example occurred at the Bethlehem Steel Company, where he co-created the Taylor-White Process, which created a harder, more effective tool. When the Committee of Science and Arts in the Franklin Institute was awarding Taylor with the Elliott Cresson Medal, Taylor felt compelled to send them a letter because the write-up for the award insinuated that his discovery may have been more of an accident than a calculated experiment. The letter requested that they correct their wording of that sentence (Taylor, 1902).  

Bethlehem Steel Company
This was a giant leap from the way that factories had been run, and trying to prove that this was the right way was a large challenge for Taylor. As a result, he was forced into a systematic process of disseminating these ideas. Part of this process included speeches about Scientific Management. Taylor would not speak on the terms of others. He would only agree to speak at a “considerable length, because a short address leaves people antagonistic instead of friendly towards Scientific Management” (Taylor, 1914). Taylor would not give talks unless allotted at least two hours.
Besides needing a lot of time to speak, Taylor was also very strategic when it came to his professional organizations in which he participated. Logically, Taylor started off in societies focused on mechanical engineering, and from there he extended his involvement into organizations that were further away from his original area of expertise. He moved from engineering societies to societies focused on a range of topics like education, philosophy and history. The chart below shows a record of the diversity of industries that Taylor was involved in. Over time Taylor shifted from just engineering and mechanics organizations to more broad industries (represented by the dark to light purple).
After establishing his concept of Scientific Management, Taylor wanted to spread his ideas and the best way to do that was to get involved in societies of varying disciplines.
Taylor saw the potential to apply his focus on efficiency from Scientific Management to many areas. In the education field, his associates collected data from different colleges to analyze the efficiency of different physics classes (Taylor, 1909). He was consulted on the best way to test cost versus effectiveness of classes. He took great interest in the U.S. Navy Yards, which became very controversial as he moved into government work (Taylor, 1909). The reach of Taylor’s ideas expanded to philosophy, history, and psychology. The American Philosophical Society asked Taylor to speak about Scientific Management and moving pictures (Keen, 1913), and he was also invited to join the Historical Society of Pennsylvania as he was considered a “most prominent citizen” (Keen, 1912). At one point the Society of Applied Psychology sent him a booklet entitled “Attainment of Mind Control” (The Applied Psychology, 1914). Scientific Management was a concept that crossed over many different fields of interest because at its core it was just about efficiency and people.
     Taylor also remained active in the broader field of engineering, especially through participation in the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. He believed that societies that were too specific were not as effective. For example, when he was approached by the American Society for Promoting Efficiency, he not only refused to be a part of the society, he did not want to be associated with the group at all (Taylor, 1911).
His method was challenged again when his colleagues decided that Scientific Management should have a society for its own. Taylor believed that the best forum for the continued expansion of Scientific Management was the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. Other prominent figures in the field of Scientific Management disagreed. They believed that the American Society of Engineers “decided that the greater service would be rendered by emphasizing pure engineering, and consequently study and discussion of management found its opportunity restricted” (Brown, 1925). This group of men included James M. Dodge, Frank B. Gilbreth, Robert T. Kent, Conrad Lauer, Carl G. Barth, Morris L. Cooke and H. K. Hathaway. They began meeting regularly as the Society to Promote the Science of Management.
Taylor, on the other hand, wanted to focus on the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. He believed that it would be more productive to convince this large group of individuals to follow the ways of Scientific Management than it would be to meet with people who are already advocates of the practice (Taylor, 1910). Taylor wanted nothing to do with the Society to Promote the Science of Management in the beginning. He refused to look through the constitution that Sanford E. Thompson sent him (Taylor, 1911). Taylor fought its formation and then refused to be associated with it, until it was pointed out that regardless of whether he joined or not, the fate of the society was connected to the fate of the concept of Scientific Management (Thompson, 1911). Therefore, he eventually had limited involvement and accepted an honorary membership in the society (Taylor 1914). This society is the explanation for the outlier of the dark purple box in the last box of the chart above, it was not part of his strategy.
Over the years, this story has become muddled. People often assume that Taylor was an advocate for this society, especially after it was renamed the Taylor Society posthumously. Some historians misinterpret his reluctant surrender as support, but Taylor was clear that he was not at all supportive. He only joined to defend his legacy.
In the end, Taylor’s overall strategy was still extremely successful. Through his lengthy speeches and the broad dissemination of ideas through various societies, Taylor laid a foundation that made Scientific Management a key ideal in the industrial world. As he managed his relations with others and his position within larger social networks, he made himself the “Father of Scientific Management.”


The Samuel C. Williams Library and the College of Arts and Letters at Stevens Institute of Technology are pleased to invite you to participate in our upcoming conference celebrating the achievements and legacy of Frederick Winslow Taylor (1856-1915), to be held on September 24-25, 2015.
Click the image for more information and to register!