Human Factors and Ergonomics SocietyHistory

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History of our Chapter.

The origins of Human Factors activities in the United States is often traced to the applied work of Fredrick Taylor which was conducted near the beginning of the 20th century. Taylor's most notable work involved the selection of tools (e.g., different types of shovels) that were matched to the task at hand. Other work associated with Human Factors during successive decades continued to examine improvements in work methods and physical workspace design.

During World War II, advances in technology occurred that allowed machines to be built which demanded more from their human operators than they were capable of delivering. This led to the birth of Aviation Psychology and the eventual birth of Human Factors as we know it today. At the 1952 convention of the American Psychological Association, Jack Dunlap chaired a meeting to discuss the merit of forming a society and publishing a journal devoted exclusively to Human Engineering topics. After many additional years of discussions, The Human Factors Society of America was voted into official existence on September 25, 1957.

In Western New York, the origins of the Human Factors discipline can be traced originally to developments within Eastman Kodak Company. In 1959, a proposal was made by Dr. Charles Miller and Harry L. Davis to form a formal Human Factors Laboratory in Eastman Kodak Company. This laboratory was funded and formed in 1960, becoming one of the first formal industrial Human Factors laboratories in the United States (earlier laboratories were, of course, formed within the military and within military suppliers).

Interest in Human Factors continued to grow in Western New York. Near the end of 1965, a group of individuals met to discuss the possibility of a local chapter of the Human Factors Society. Among the first existing documentation of the Western New York chapter is the meeting notes of the third meeting of the chapter which was held on March 17, 1966 (view a replica of this letter). This meeting was the first in which elected officers presided and was documented by the newly elected secretary, Terrence W. Faulkner. The elected officers who presided over this first meeting included: Melvin Rudov, President; Harry L. Davis, President-Elect; Carl von Sternberg, Vice President; B. Richard Bernstein, Treasurer; and Terrence W. Faulkner, Secretary

At this meeting Harry Davis spoke on the application of human factors techniques to the study of industrial work. He showed how measures such as heart rate and oxygen consumption could be used in the design of work or in determining the ability of specific individuals to perform certain jobs.

On the 3rd of May in 1966, Melvin H. Rudov, Ph.D., then president of the Western New York Chapter, proposed the creation of an affiliated local Western New York Chapter to the national Human Factors Society. This proposal was made in a letter containing the following words:

I would like to express the desire of the Western New York Chapter (Proposed) of the Human Factors Society to affiliate with the National Society. This chapter has been in existence for approximately one-half year during which time it has received an enthusiastic response from the members of our profession in this area. It is our intent to represent the Western New York area including the cities of Syracuse on the east and Niagara Falls on the west.
As we are now constituted, we are an interdisciplinary organization consisting of psychologists, engineers and a physician. It is our intent to maintain not only the interdisciplinary nature of our organization, but to increase the number of disciplines represented. We intend to operate with no biases towards any religion, race or creed.
From the enthusiasm in general thus far, I am sure we would remain a strong and lasting chapter of the Human Factors Society.

This proposal was accepted and the Western New York Chapter of the Human Factors Society became an affiliated chapter of the national Human Factors Society.

The chapter continued to grow over successive years. In 1970, the chapter began a publication called "Human Facts". In 1971 the chapter took on an even larger task by attempting to provide localized services to the community. During this year, the chapter took on three separate tasks. The Buffalo region began the study of "Acquisition of Psychomotive Skills by Dentists and Auxiliary Personnel" and "Identification of Criminal Faces". The Rochester region took part in projects on "Hospital Wards and Emergency Rooms", "Safety and Grade Schools", and "Association for the Blind". The Syracuse region took on the task of "Handicapped Workshop of Greater Syracuse, Inc". In 1972 four of these projects were completed.

In 1981, the Western New York Chapter sponsored the Human Factors Society Annual Meeting right here in upstate New York. This meeting was held before the conference utilized professional support for organizing the conference and, therefore, required a significant effort from the members of the chapter who were responsible for organizing the conference.

In 1987, the Western New York chapters of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society and the Industrial Design Society of America organized and hosted Interface '87. This three-day conference was sponsored by the Consumer Products Technical Group of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society and concentrated on the application of Human Factors and Industrial Design principles to the design of consumer products. This conference was chaired by Stan Caplan.

Since that time, the chapter has continued to grow. The chapter has remained active, holding bi-annual meetings and sponsoring other events throughout its history. More specific information is available in the chapter's annual summary to the national chapter.