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The One Best Way


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About the Author

Robert Kanigel is Professor of Science Writing and Director of the Graduate Program in Science Writing at MIT and the author of Apprentice to Genius and The Man Who Knew Infinity. His articles, essays, and reviews have appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The New York Times Book Review, Wilson Quarterly, and Psychology Today.


In 1995, the Safelite Glass Corporation moved from hourly to piece-rate pay for its workers and realized a productivity increase of 20 percent per worker. After over 100 years, the work of Frederick Winslow Taylor, a management expert who emphasized such an approach to paying workers, still permeates the American work force. Kanigel (Apprentice to Genius, Johns Hopkins Univ., 1993) brings his winning writing style to this treatment of the enigmatic Taylor‘often called the "father of scientific management"‘whom Peter Drucker has said warrants a place alongside Darwin and Freud in the making of the modern world. Kanigel deftly shies away from a psychologically interpretive approach, drawing the reader right into the heart of life in late-19th-century America, the age of steam and steel (Taylor died in 1915). This rewarding and beautifully written work is a shoo-in as a best business book and will likely stand as the definitive work on Taylor. Essential.‘Dale F. Farris, Groves, Tex.

An expansive and illuminating biography of both the man and the gritty industrial world he inhabited.

-The New York Times

Who has "probably had a greater effect on the private and public lives of the men and women of the 20th century than any other single individual?" Few people nowadays would answer, "Frederick Winslow Taylor" (1856-1915), the first "efficiency expert." But Kanigel (The Man Who Knew Infinity) thinks that this claim may not be an overstatement. Taylor, who came from a wealthy Philadelphia family, turned down Harvard and went to work in a foundry, then as an apprentice in a steel mill's machine shop, where he became a foreman by the time he was 24 (and won the U.S. Open doubles tennis championship the next year). Taylor later came to romanticize his years as a mill worker and referred to them often when charged with being antilabor, but it was as a "gang boss" that, armed with his ever-present stopwatch, he began what he considered his scientific "time and motion" studies of how long a worker took to do each step of a specific job‘and how long the best workers should take. He also managed to earn a degree in engineering from the Stevens Institute and went on to increase the efficiency of machines (as well as men). In the late 1890s, Taylor became a private consulting engineer, spreading his gospel of efficiency and eventually making a name‘and his fortune‘in high-speed steel manufacture. The so-called Taylor System became internationally known, and in 1912 he even had to defend it before a congressional committee formed to determine whether working people should be subjected to the rule of a clock. Kanigel's admiration for his subject is tempered with realistic skepticism. A most satisfying examination of a singular American life. (May)

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