It was emphasized by Christensen that even at the earliest period of development of humans it was obvious that there is a necessity for the tools to fit the construction of a human body. "Australopithecus Prometheus selected pebble tools and made scoops from antelope bones in a clear display of selecting/creating objects to make tasks easier to accomplish". (History of ergonomics 2007) The human beings continued improving their working tools, and later machines and other complicated mechanisms. That was actually how ergonomics began.
Centuries ago, researchers started noticing connections between physical work and orthopedic injuries - e.g. in the 17th century, Bernardino Ramazinni in his "De Morbis Artificum" wrote about different work-related diseases of people; in the 19th century, Wojciech Jastrzebowski was the first to use the very word "ergonomics" in his treatise. With the development of technologies, the peculiarities of human body and motions and their connection to production were observed, and that is how the basics of ergonomics were developing. Frederick W. Taylor managed to increase the production at Bethlehem Steel, and Frank and Lillian Gilbreth improved tools and job process in bricklaying using the principles of ergonomics. (History of ergonomics 2007)
As far as Taylor is concerned, he is called nowadays...
shop by means of inventing a comfortable layout of the working place, encouraging people to work more efficiently, and creating a stimulating atmosphere. It was due to "Taylorism" that attention began to arise to selecting, hiring, retaining, and motivating personnel (for all these modern managers can thank Frederick W. Taylor), and, which is especially important for the development of ergonomics - standards of labor. (People and work systems)
Brian Shakel characterizes the development of ergonomics over the years as: "1950s - war ergonomics; 1960s - industrial ergonomics; 1970s - ergonomics of consumer goods; 1980s - "man - computer" interface and software ergonomics; 1990s - cognitive and organizational ergonomics". (cited from: Helander 1997, p. 4)
During the World War, there was a considerable upsurge of interest to ergonomics, since the equipment used during the military actions was in many cases efficient but badly designed, and there was a need to adjust the size of machines (i.e. airplanes or tanks) to the size of soldiers. After the World War II, the accent shifted gradually to the safety and productivity at the workplace. (History of ergonomics 2007)
Having been legally registered as a separate discipline in 1949, ergonomics has undergone significant changes during these almost six decades. For example, if in the 1980s the research was predominantly conducted in the areas of anthropometrics, labor physiology, labor projecting, biomechanics, and psychology, during the last decade the priorities of ergonomics have changed and shifted to the sphere of labor safety and "human - PC" interface. Biomechanics and labor physiology do not dominate any more, however a new aspect of ergonomics has developed which is connected with orthopedic injuries and pathologies