Eugene L. Grant
A great teacher of quality control
ASQ will share its 50th anniversary with that of one of the key events in the development of quality control as an important industrial discipline—the publication in 1946 of Statistical Quality Control, the first comprehensive text on the subject, by Stanford University professor Eugene L. Grant.
Grant's book went through six editions (the last two in tandem with Richard Leavenworth) in 50 years and sales of the book surpassed the 260,000 mark. Grant attributed the book's success to publicity about Japanese success with statistical quality control, but the continuing demand is evidence that Grant produced a classic.
Although Grant is best known for Statistical Quality Control, his contributions extend beyond the boundaries of the quality profession. Industrial quality control was only one of the areas in which he specialized. He authored books in several other areas, including engineering economy, depreciation, and accounting, and one of those books outsold Statistical Quality Control.
Grant spent his entire career as a teacher. His academic career began in 1920 at Montana State College, where he was an instructor and professor in industrial engineering until 1930. That year, he moved to Stanford University, where he remained until his retirement in 1962. For most of that time, Grant was a professor in economics of engineering. From 1947 to 1956, he also served as executive head of the department of civil engineering.
Despite the breadth of his interests, it is for his work in quality that Grant received ASQ's two highest honors—the Shewhart Medal in 1952 and Honorary membership in 1968. He was also named an honorary academician of the International Academy for Quality. Perhaps the most important part of Grant's work in quality was his involvement in statistical quality control short courses put on by an agency of the U.S. War Production Board during World War II. The courses were modeled on those presented in the Engineering, Science, and Management War Training (ESMWT) program by the U.S. Office of Education. The leading instructor for the ESMWT courses was W. Edwards Deming. Grant, as director of Stanford's ESMWT program, helped plan, promote, finance, and teach the courses.
The success of graduates of the ESMWT courses helped persuade the War Production Board to launch its own courses. The War Production Board courses also stressed the practical benefits of statistical quality control. A key aspect of the courses was a series of one-day follow-up seminars held every six weeks for several months after the conclusion of each course.
These sessions featured accounts of successful applications of statistical quality control; the success stories, in turn, helped trigger new efforts at other plants. The short courses spread the word about quality control throughout the country; soon, students in these courses formed the local organizations that eventually united to make up ASQ. Like Grant's book, his teaching efforts during World War II contributed to the growth and spread of the quality discipline.
Grant's achievements in quality and in education prompted the creation of ASQ's Eugene L. Grant Award. It is given annually to an individual who has "demonstrated outstanding leadership in the development and presentation of a meritorious educational program in quality control."
Although he was an academic, Grant understood the viewpoint of practitioners, or "industrialists," as Grant called them in the Industrial Quality Control article "Industrialists and Professors in Quality Control." Grant recalled meeting one of those industrialists—an official of the War Production Board—in 1943. Grant attempted to sell the man on the benefits of statistical quality control training being offered by an agency of the board. "This man told me that although he was in a position to encourage industrial concerns to send people to our course, he definitely would not do so," Grant said. "In effect, he told me that if we persuaded busy employees of war plants to spend eight valuable days on such a useless venture, we were interfering with the progress of the war.
"I admit that in May 1943 I took rather a dim view of the attitude of this official. But from the perspective of 10 years, I can see that his viewpoint in 1943 might have seemed more reasonable than my viewpoint and that of my fellow professors. What we professors had was faith—faith that statistical techniques would prove to be widely useful in the control of quality in many different kinds of manufacturing. In 1943 we had only a limited amount of evidence from industry to back up our faith."