09 November 2006

RIP: Ernestine Gilbreth Carey

From the Boston Globe:
LOS ANGELES -- Ernestine Gilbreth Carey, who teamed up with a younger brother to write "Cheaper by the Dozen," the best-selling book that lightheartedly chronicled their life growing up in a family of 12 children in the early 20th century, has died. She was 98.

Mrs. Carey, who lived in Reedley , died Saturday at a hospital in Fresno.

"Cheaper by the Dozen," which Mrs. Carey wrote with her brother Frank Gilbreth Jr., was published in 1948. The fact-based novel about the Gilbreth brood -- six boys and six girls born over 17 years -- was praised for its gentle humor and for being an affectionate tribute to their parents.

The book has been translated into a dozen languages. It also was turned into a 1950 movie starring Clifton Webb and Myrna Loy. In 2003, Steve Martin and Bonnie Hunt played the parents in a modernized remake, which was followed by a 2005 sequel.

Born in New York, Mrs. Carey was the third child of industrial engineers Frank Bunker Gilbreth and Lillian Moller Gilbreth.

The Gilbreths were pioneers in the field of "scientific management," collaborating on the development of motion studies and time-management techniques. Their management-consulting firm's expertise was used by major industrial plants.

In addition to Cheaper by the Dozen, there was a second book, Belles on Their Toes (1950). It told about Mrs Gilbreth's efforts at raising her large family, as well as continuing the management-engineering business, after her husband's death in 1924.

In Time Enough for Love, Robert A Heinlein wrote:
Minimize your therbligs until it becomes automatic; this doubles your effective lifetime -- and thereby gives you time to enjoy butterflies and kittens and rainbows.

"Therbligs" are the fundamental motions of a worker's hands (there are 17); the term was invented by Frank Gilbreth during his motion studies, and is "Gilbreth" spelt backwards, more or less.

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