Last week I wrote about George Romero, a film-maker who has had perhaps one of the most profound influences on modern culture. Continuing in that vein, today I’d like to stir up some applause for Frank Bunker Gilbreth, Sr., or as you might better know him, the dad the Cheaper By The Dozen movies.
Now if you’ve seen any of the films, you’ll see the father of the twelve kids hopelessly overwhelmed until the family finally remembers that they need a happy ending to appeal to the widest possible audience causing them to get back together in the last ten or so minutes of movie. Truth is, the actual Frank Gilbreth was an excellent parent who took care of his twelve kids as best as could possibly be expected. How did he manage that? Well, it turns out Gilbreth was an expert in the study and application of efficiency, and applied his unique brand of training to his own family, as well as the workplace. Gilbreth was obsessed with reducing the steps every action took (which he named “therbligs,” reversing his own last name). For example, eliminating the “therblig” of having to search for your razor by having the razor painted bright red, making it easily noticeable. Things such as more efficient guns, pedal-operated trashcans, and arguable the entire study of ergonomics all owe a great debt to this man. But that’s not the big thing.
You ever see a nurse handing a surgeon his tools while in the middle of an operation?
Frank Gilbreth Sr. came up with that.
You ever see a soldier or spy blindfolded, reassembling his gun?
Frank Gilbreth Sr. came up with that too.
Think about that. How many lives have been saved and ended because of this guy? The guy died in 1924- think about all the expansion that’s happened in medicine and warfare since then. Think about all the people who have died or been saved since then. Heck, there’s a decent possibility neither you or I would exist without this guy’s work.
And his legacy is a terrible Steve Martin popcorn movie?
Ladies and gentlemen, if you will, a moment of applause for the real Frank Gilbreth.