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COLLECTION Identifier: Arch GA 76

Fritz J. Roethlisberger papers


This collection includes Fritz J. Roethlisberger's teaching and research materials kept by Fritz J. Roethlisberger while at Harvard Business School and his research materials relating to the Hawthorne Studies at the Western Electric Company. Types of materials include speeches, writings, correspondence, interviews, administrative files and student notes.


  • Creation: 1918-1974

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research. Materials stored onsite. HBS Archives collections require a secondary registration form, please contact for more information.


15 linear feet (11 manuscript boxes, 9 cartons, 1 oversize box, 1 oversize folder)

Researchers interested in Fritz Roethlisberger’s participation in the Hawthorne Studies will want to concentrate primarily on Series VI. Western Electric Co. Hawthorne Studies, which consists of general administrative files, as well as transcripts of interviews with employees. Information from this series is complemented by Roethlisberger’s speeches and writings in Series IV and by his correspondence in Series I, especially with colleagues on the project, such as Elton Mayo and William Dickson. Researchers looking for information about research other than the Hawthorne Studies should focus on Series III. Research Projects, which is complemented by correspondence in Series I and speeches and writings in Series IV.

Roethlisberger’s activities as an administrator and professor at Harvard Business School are documented by files contained in Series II. HBS--Related Materials.

The development of Fritz Roethlisberger’s thinking and the emergence of his interests in the human relations aspects of management is described in his draft autobiography in the writings subseries of Series IV. Student notes. Reports in Series V. Student Notebooks were prepared during his formative years and contain some hints about his dissatisfaction with philosophy as a course of study.The scope of Roethlisberger’s broad intellectual interests is well represented by his speeches and writings in Series IV and letters to and from a range of correspondents in Series I. Improvements in education and training, the importance of psychology and sociology in personnel management, the nature of organizational behavior, and other topics are among the many interests documented by Series I and IV.

Biographical Note:

Fritz Jules Roethlisberger was born in New York City in 1898 and died in Massachusetts in 1974. He earned the BA in engineering from Columbia University in 1921, the BS in engineering administration from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1922, and the MA in philosophy from Harvard University in 1925. His studies toward a PhD in philosophy at Harvard were interrupted when he met Elton Mayo, Professor of Industrial Research at Harvard Business School. He became Mayo’s assistant and a member of the Harvard Business School Department of Industrial Research, remaining affiliated with the department from 1927 to 1946.

Roethlisberger held the following positions at Harvard Business School: Instructor of Industrial Research, 1927-1930; Assistant Professor of Industrial Research, 1930-1938; Associate Professor of Industrial Research, 1938-1946; and Wallace Brett Donham Professor of Human Relations, 1950-1974.

Roethlisberger was a key member of the team that studied employee relations at the Western Electric Company Hawthorne Plant in Hawthorne, Illinois. The Hawthorne Studies had started in 1924 under the supervision of MIT’s Dugald C. Jackson. Executives at Western Electric brought Elton Mayo and the Harvard Business School Industrial Research Group into the studies in 1927. Professor Roethlisberger worked on the studies actively from 1927 to 1936, first as Mayo’s assistant and later as his collaborator. The aim of the studies were to explore the relationships between such factors as physical working conditions (e.g., lighting levels), worker morale, and industrial output. Satisfying answers to questions about such relationships proved to be elusive in the early years of the project. Roethlisberger regularly expanded the boundaries of the investigation while searching for deeper insights into the behavior of employees. Approximately 20,000 employees were interviewed, and many others were observed at their jobs under laboratory conditions measuring productivity, individual physiology, and changes in physical working conditions. The studies became a milestone in the development of the Human Relations School of Industrial Management. Roethlisberger and fellow researcher William Dickson summarized the results of the studies in 1939 in the classic book, Management and the Worker.

Professor Roethlisberger served as a consultant to the Training Within Industry Program of the U.S. Government’s Office of Production Management from 1941 to 1942. He taught management to Radcliffe students in the Radcliffe Management Training Program from 1937 to 1947 and to union representatives in Harvard’s Trade Union Program from 1942 to 1946. He was a professor at Harvard Business School in the MBA Program, DBA Program, and Advanced Management Program (AMP). He was Chair of the Area of Organizational Behavior from 1961 to 1964.

Physical Location


Processing Information

Processed: October 1997

By: Jeffery Mifflin

Baker Library
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Repository Details

Part of the Baker Library Special Collections and Archives, Harvard Business School Repository

Baker Library Special Collections and Archives holds unique resources that focus on the evolution of business and industry, as well as the records of the Harvard Business School, documenting the institution's development over the last century. These rich and varied collections support research in a diverse range of fields such as business, economic, social and cultural history as well as the history of science and technology.

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