Tufts in the Genesis of Human Factors Engineering
by Hal Miller-Jacobs
Tufts College was one of the trailblazing institutions in the emerging field of Human Factors Engineering as a result of the Second World War. In 1942 a study was conducted of Army antiaircraft artillery at Tufts, directed by Leonard Mead and William Biel which led to the development of a gun –director simulator (Roscoe, 1997).
In 1949 a Handbook of Human Engineering Data was produced at Tufts College, generally referred to as “The Tufts Handbook,” under a program directed by Leonard Mead for the Navy’s Special Devices Center and heavily contributed to by the consulting firm of Dunlap & Associates (Roscoe, 1997). Mead held many positions at Tufts including Professor in the Psychology Department, Dean of the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, Senior Vice President, Provost and acting President from 1966-1967.
[Personal Note: Mead was my Dissertation advisor and upon his retirement in 1977, Phil Sampson, chair of the Psychology Department, asked me to teach his courses, one of which, Industrial & Organizational Psychology. I also worked for the consulting firm of Dunlap & Associates for 15 years.]
In the 1960’s The Psychology Department had an offshoot called ‘The Institute for Psychological Research’ that conducted Human Factors Engineering research. Tufts subsequently became the national repository of all human factors engineering documentation, under the direction of Stan Lippert. It was housed in the small building alongside Cousins Gym.
The Engineering Psychology program may have been the first such undergraduate program in the country, under the joint leadership of Phil Sampson of the Psychology Department and John Kreifeldt of the Engineering Design Department.
Roscoe S.N. (1997). The Adolescence of Engineering Psychology. In Human Factors History Monograph, Vol 1. Santa Monica CA, Human Factors & Ergonomics Society