Lunchtime seminar – 1st December: Roland Edwards (University of Manchester)


The Ergonomics of Clothing Design – Project Adam, Harold Wilson’s Gannex coat and Dogger Bank Itch

As Steven Shapin and others have observed the circulation and exchange of discipline knowledge using formal and informal networks between communities of interest is critical to the growth of scientific disciplines. Generally communities of interest are identified as including, amongst others government and industrial research laboratories, academia, government policy makers and increasingly consumer groups. Over the past few months I have been researching how these communities of interest were established for ergonomics and who were the key actors. This research has revealed that a scientific consultancy played a major role in discipline growth, specifically in the field of clothing ergonomics.

Consultancies are business institutions which provide skilled individuals to industry, government departments and institutions to address problems which lie outside the skill sets of employees of those organisations. There is a rich literature on the role of business consultancies, but there is little information on the role and impact of scientific consultancies. Michael Farr (Design Integration) later (Ergonomics), were one of the first such consultancies to be established in the UK. Using a business model which was drastically different to that employed by other consultancies Farr and his team worked on programmes ranging from the design of consumer goods, intensive care units, and fashion and protective clothing. This presentation will show how Farr brought together ergonomics and specifically clothing design so playing a major role in establishing the sub-discipline of clothing ergonomics. The presentation will also suggest that an historical study of the development of protective clothing in an occupational health setting is long overdue.


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