Carl G. Barth, 1860-1939: A Sketch
By Florence M. Manning (Volume XIII: Page 114)
Carl Georg Barth -- a Norwegian by birth, an American by adoption--was pre-eminently a
mathematician, an engineer who reduced to mathematical formulas the laws for cutting
metals that had been covered by the research of his friend, Frederick Winslow Taylor. His
contributions run through the whole field of mechanical engineering and machine design
that paralleled the scientific management movement. The consensus of opinion of Barth's
peers is that he was the ablest of Taylor's associates and did more than any other one man
to make scientific management a working success in its early trial period. Not a few of
Barth's colleagues agreed that if he had decided to commercialize upon his discoveries he
could have made a number of fortunes; others have done that on certain features of his
work. His object always was to establish the truth concerning engineering and management,
and he had little concern about his own personal gain.
Barth's enormous capacity for work, combined with his rare experience in the practical
application of mathematics, mechanics, and mechanical drawing made his accomplishments
possible. His dynamic energy, independent thought, and constant search for truth, as well
as his indefatigable efforts to better the working conditions of the laboring classes, may
be understood if we glance briefly at Barth's splendid background. He himself was a
self-made man; and his forefathers had possessed the same ingenuity, resourcefulness,
vision, and courage.
Carl Georg Barth had a long line of distinguished forebears. His father's ancestors
have been traced back to Norway's first king, Harold the Fair-haired. Barth facetiously
remarked that in his family there were many counts and doubtless lots of no-accounts.
Nevertheless he lived up to this heritage: "Noble by birth, yet nobler by
Carl's father, Jakob Boeckman Barth, was compelled by a rich uncle to study law,
although he had neither inclination for, nor appreciation of this profession. Jakob loved
the out-of-door life, reveled in the beauty of nature, and devoted every spare moment to
the study of the natural sciences. He had the distinction of being Norway's first
technically educated and highly respected forester. Life in the forest was a natural
laboratory for his studies of the flora and fauna of Norway. He wrote several books on
these subjects. To Jakob belonged the honor of being the best wing shot of the
A rebellious soul, Jakob resented being compelled to listen to Sunday sermons while his
whole soul craved to be out in nature's wide-open sanctuary. This many-sided man also made
a study of religious philosophy; he saw an intelligent design in nature's way of evolving,
and early developed into a Unitarian. Consequently, on behalf of his eight children he
could not refrain from interfering with the religious instruction that prevailed in the
state schools. The provincial community in which the family lived resented Jakob's
recalcitrance. However, his pre-eminence in his profession, his scientific interests, his
prolific writings in diversified fields, and his integrity of character helped offset this
considerably. The controversy with the state church eventually became acute; Jakob only
aggravated the situation by circulating a pamphlet he had written called "Religious
Persecution in Norway in the Year 1873." Three years before his death (1889) he
published a book entitled, "The Fallacy of the Teachings of the Church and True
Adelaide Magdeline Lange Barth, the wife of Jakob and mother of Carl, was of pure
Danish descent. Her father, a Danish clergyman, was a graduate of the University of
Copenhagen. Of the nine children born to her six were boys and three, girls.
Carl Georg Barth, the fourth child, was born in Christiania, Norway, February 28, 1860.
He received his early education in the public schools at Lillehammer. His mother often
said that Carl was the only one of her brood who could always keep himself busy and
contented without bothering anyone about how he should spend his time. When Carl was not
playing or fighting with his companions, he was forever trying to make something with
hammer and nails. When he was twelve, an older friend took him to see a crude little
machine shop in a small brass foundry. A candlestick was being turned up under the
skillful manipulation of a hand tool. Carl was so fascinated with the manner in which the
chips were made to fly from it that he then determined to go to work in a machine shop as
soon as possible.
But his father had seen to it that Carl took the college preparatory course that would
fit him to enter the university at Christiania. Hence, to his disgust, the boy studied
Latin, instead of working with machinery, until he had graduated from the lower section of
his school. Occasional conflicts flared up with his Latin teacher, who frequently told
Carl he would go the way the hen kicks. But in mathematics Carl did unusual work. Wherever
he labored later in life, his ability in this field, combined with his physical prowess
and mental energy, were recognized.
Because of his wish to have something to do with machinery, Carl, instead of continuing
the final preparation for a university career, eventually went to the navy's technical
school at Horton. Carl was the youngest pupil ever admitted to that school. Among other
things this course included an introduction to calculus and machine design. Little did he
dream at the time that he was to become an authority in this important field of
engineering. The course, short and purely theoretical, terminated in a year and a half;
but when not yet seventeen he was graduated (1876) with higher honors than had been
previously accorded to anyone.
In 1877 Carl started on a five-year apprenticeship in a boiler shop of the navy yard at
Horton; this had been offered to a limited number of civilian graduates of the school.
When the navy yard bell rang at six o'clock in the morning for work to start, Carl rarely
failed to be on hand. Tingling with vitality and youthful exuberance, he gloried in the
manual labor and the fascinating "music" he brought forth from a blacksmith's
anvil. When he acted as helper, his mathematical knowledge frequently outstripped that of
his foreman when Carl quickly performed simple calculations, much to the admiration of the
workmen and foremen alike.
Barth's longing for a chance to "make the chips fly" was satisfied for the
first time when he was detailed to run a lathe in the machine shop. When he was
transferred to a little slotter whose automatic feed had been out of commission for years,
his curiosity spurred him to ascertain how the automatic feed worked; he got permission to
repair the mechanism and succeeded! Thus he accomplished what he had desired-- he learned
what made it tick. Years later the same characteristic of using his own head and hands in
untraditional ways prepared him for his pioneer work of blazing new trails in scientific
When Barth's time came to be sent to another department, the chief instructor at the
technical school insisted that he take on the duties of assistant instructor in
mathematics during the morning hours and work in the office of the superintendent of the
naval shops in the afternoon. Young Barth reluctantly yielded and temporarily relinquished
his proud career as a "chip producer." He was not to return to it until
twenty years later when he joined Frederick Winslow Taylor at the Bethlehem Steel Company,
of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, where he soon became the only scientific chip producer of that
epoch-making period of the machine industry. Taylor often pointed out that while all
machine shops produced chips as a by-product, that shop was most successful which produced
its chips most economically; for thus it also produced its final product most
Part of Barth's duties while in the superintendent's office of the navy yard consisted
of taking delicate measurements connected with the boring and rifling of seven- and
eight-inch guns; he also supervised the testing of ship's anchors and chains, which
required a certificate from the naval testing laboratory. It was here that he had an
opportunity to exercise his independence of judgment and ingenuity. He had not been long
at this work before he became suspicious that the chain-testing machine had never been
properly calibrated. One day he refused to sign the usual document that formed the basis
of the official certificate for a certain heavy chain. Peremptorily he was ordered before
his highest superior. The naval officer at first abused him; it was absurd for such a
youngster to question the correctness of the calibration of the chain tester, which had
been made by one of the ablest mathematicians and physicists (Commodore Gelmuyden) the
Norwegian navy had ever had. Vindication of Barth's contention came when he was
commissioned to re-calibrate the machine--a task that taxed his ingenuity to the utmost
because of the poor facilities at his disposal. It was a crucial test, but he succeeded.
A book published in Norway entitled "Socialistic Taxation and Social Order"
gives an account of Barth's activities as a disciple of Taylor, and speaks of the high
reputation Barth still has in the navy yard at Horton because of the good work he did in
calibrating that machine.
In American money Barth's remuneration for this work would amount to only fourteen
cents a day, but this did not detract from the vim, enthusiasm, and energy with which he
set about each task entrusted to him. The superintendent remarked that Barth ate up work
so fast he could hardly keep him going.
Barth liked to work, but he saw the futility of remaining in a land that offered no
encouragement to an energetic, intelligent young man who had already gained considerable
recognition. So in April, 1881 he buoyantly left for America, not only to make a way for
himself, but to establish a home for his chosen companion. In the fall of the year
Hendrikke Jakobine Friedericksen followed him, and they were married the following spring,
in March, 1882.
BARTH THE INDIVIDUAL
Though Barth was below average stature, his vitality compensated for his lack of height
and weight; he radiated enthusiasm, health, and energy. Keen, sharp, snapping blue eyes
illuminated his face. His manner was gracious, his disposition cheerful; he was
charitable, forgiving, and lovable, though self-confident, autocratic, and impatient when
sure of his ground. Underneath a peppery disposition, he concealed an exceedingly tender
heart. One of his associates remarked: "When Barth was actively at work he could
leave a sleeping car in the morning, then for three days set a pace that would leave all
the rest of us bedraggled. He possessed a high-grade vocabulary of profanity that he kept
in reserve for special deserving situations."
His Bostonian pronounciation, colored by a Norwegian accent, made for a wide variety of
speaking tones; when he was trying to convince, his voice took on a pleading cadence hard
to resist. Discussions he kept stimulated, for he was a keen thinker and a lively talker.
Possessed of a fearless honesty and a high degree of moral courage, Barth, the dauntless
champion of right as he saw it, courted no one, even when it was to his advantage. But
there was no false modesty about Barth in respect to things in which he was pre-eminent,
for he was a man of profound convictions regarding his specialities. Barth's impressive
sincerity pervaded his entire being; his desire for serving humanity was genuine. He was a
peculiar enigma of modesty and egoism. His keen sense of humor relieved many a tense
situation that arose from his blunt, outspoken tactlessness.
A biographer who interviewed Barth while writing up the life of F. W. Taylor described
him thus: "Barth had the guilelessness and noble simplicity of a child, plus the
kindliness, sympathy and charity of a developed man--was very much interested in the
social sciences. By all who were big and broad enough to appreciate his qualities, he was
Barth's philosophy of life was the gospel of work, and, "Do good for the good's
sake." Possessed of the kind of ambition that urged him to do his best with any piece
of work assigned to him, he never knew the kind that drove him to excel over his
co-workers in the endeavor to gain a reputation. He gave of himself profusely, for he was
unsparingly conscientious. Friends vainly cautioned him against spending himself and his
substance too generously.
Music, bicycling, and delving into abstruse mathematical problems constituted Barth's
favorite means of recreation.
He was in "Math." a great critic,
Profoundly skill'd in analytic;
He could distinguish and divide
A hair 'twixt south and south-west side.
For his own amusement he reduced his musical knowledge to a mathematical formula, doing
this by means of a slide rule he had devised that demonstrated the relations of various
scales and chords. It simplified the transposition of music from one key to another; so
that one unfamiliar with musical principles could use it for that purpose. Then he gave it
to a musician whom he thought would find it useful.
Working out intricate problems of computation was a hobby--the more difficult, the more
keen the enjoyment. In all tasks of a mechanical nature that confronted him, this wizard
seemed to find a mathematical significance when others were oblivious to it.
A very modest man when discussing his own mathematical achievements, Barth warned the
writer not to be biased by the exaggerated statements of his hero-worshippers, saying,
"Please keep your mind dear as to the facts--a real, professional
mathematician would make me look like thirty cents in one minute." Yet the writer
watched him demonstrate, to the surprised chairman of the mathematics department of a
large university, an original shortcut for solving an abstruse mathematical problem in
less time than it takes to tell it. Because Barth was considered an expert in mathematical
approximations, Lehigh University repeatedly tried to induce him to join its faculty,
Barth had to his credit many achievements in calculating. As early as 1892 he presented
a mathematical discussion before the Engineers' Club of Philadelphia on "The
Distribution of Pressure in Bearings."
Long before he took up the field of
scientific management, he conducted noteworthy mathematical investigations. One of these,
"The Buckling of Long Columns," was published and received commendation.
the work he did in cost accounting, premium systems, and wage scales of course dropped
into this category.
His friends often kept him busy working out their mathematical problems for them, and
Barth responded with verve and interest. For instance, he said to me:
For fun I spent every minute of the four warmest months in solving a problem in
electricity and magnetism for an electrical engineer in Philadelphia .... It was a ease of
well-known impossibility of effecting an absolutely rigorous solution, but I succeeded m
solving it to a remarkably high degree of correctness by the substitution of a manageable
equation for one that was unmanageable. It was a hunt or discovery or invention of that
curve that took most of the time.
Barth's compound slide rules constituted his first and most notable contribution to
industry and testify to his ingenuity in the mathematical and mechanical field. They
represented a practical means of making effective his re-speeding of machine tools, by
which means he multiplied their output and revolutionized the operation of some of the
plants in which they were used.
BARTH THE TEACHER
Much of Barth's life was spent in teaching and inspiring others. For this task he was
equipped not only with superior ability, but with physical and mental acumen as well. His
natural aptitudes, his type of education, and his methods of thinking and working, all of
which had developed a great engineer, also made him a capable, inspiring teacher. Here was
a man who could not only do things but could tell others how.
I have already mentioned his first teaching venture in Norway. Eight months after
Barth's arrival in this country, while he was employed by William Sellers and Company, he
accepted a position at night with the Franklin Institute of Philadelphia, teaching
mechanical drawing and mathematics. He remonstrated about the size of the classes, but was
assured that in a couple of weeks registration would automatically reduce itself by one
half, as do most evening classes. However, Barth so vitalized his subjects that
notwithstanding his imperfect handling of English, the students all remained. As a result
he was compelled to teach twice as many evenings a week to accommodate their needs and at
the same time keep his enrollment down to a reasonable number. Nor did their enthusiasm
wane during the year. Without Barth's lucidity of thought, his enthusiasm, his sprightly
vivacity, combined with the master touch that belongs to the born teacher, it would have
been impossible to keep up their interest and attendance.
Later he tutored mathematics in his own home, and from this work grew his desire to
become a professor in an engineering school. Consequently he abandoned all his paid
evening work in order to utilize his spare time studying and thus strengthen his chances
of becoming a professor when the opportunity presented itself. Nor was he disappointed.
In June, 1897, at the recommendation of F. W. Taylor, Barth received an invitation from
the International Correspondence School of Scranton, Pennsylvania, to join their faculty
for the purpose of rewriting their textbook on machine design. At first the offer did not
appeal to Barth --writing was an odious task to him--but he finally accepted. What he
eventually did was to criticize and edit articles submitted to their publication, the Home
Study Magazine; to prepare one article a month for publication; and to solve the
knotty problems that were sent to the magazine for solution. He particularly enjoyed the
latter, saying, "I had the time of my life spending practically all of it in
independent investigation of mathematical and mechanical subjects, learning and teaching
in accordance with my ideal as presented by Goldsmith in his Vicar of Wakefield."
Eventually the needs of a growing family compelled Barth to relinquish his idea of
becoming a full-time teacher, so he gladly accepted F. W. Taylor's suggestion that he
undertake experimental work at the Bethlehem Steel Company, where he could wrestle with
its long-standing mathematical problems. Up to this time Barth had had no knowledge of the
laws governing metal cutting. He was put to work under Dwight Merrick on the experimental
lathe, and he soon took over the entire responsibility for the work. Supervision and
direction of that department formed the basis for all his future development in the art of
cutting metals and for his reputation as an expert. He effected the solution for the
troublesome problems in question in a comparatively short time by means of his special
slide rules. By so doing he vindicated Taylor's implicit faith that Barth would find the
answer to a problem that, according to the contentions of leading book-minded
mathematicians, had involved too many variables to be capable of any but rule of thumb
Even after returning to industry Barth was still intrigued by teaching, but this time
he desired to instruct college students-men mature enough to be good scholars. Later
Pennsylvania State College offered him the chair of machine design upon the recommendation
of the late Dean J. B. Johnson of the University of Wisconsin, who characterized Barth as
resourceful, ingenious, and original in the solution of practical problems. While at
Bethlehem he visited this college over a week end. There being no train service from
Bellefonte to the college, Barth took his bicycle along and rode it the intervening
miles--additional evidence of his resourcefulness. Subsequently Cornell offered him the
same sort of position; but at neither place was the honorarium sufficiently attractive to
entice him from the interesting work he was doing with Taylor.
Busy though he was, Barth managed to deliver lectures on scientific management every
spring from 1911 to 1916, and again from 1919 to 1925, in the graduate school of business
and finance at Harvard University; likewise, from 1919 to 1923 he lectured at the
University of Chicago.
ASSOCIATION WITH F. W. TAYLOR
I must now pass over many of the interesting experiences covering the first seventeen
colorful years of Barth's life in the United States. In 1899 Frederick W. Taylor, looking
for capable assistants in the great work he was doing on cutting metal, hired Barth.
Taylor was the instigator of all the experimental work carried on at this time at the
Bethlehem Steel Company, work that finally resulted in the development of high-speed tool
steel. The introduction of this steel and of other alloy steels of the same character that
followed in its wake revolutionized machine tool design and shop production. Barth
eventually carried on all the experimental work in connection with the development of this
steel. He developed entirely new angles for boring, turning, and facing tools that gave
the maximum capacity when used in conjunction with high-speed steel.
Taylor engaged Barth specifically to work on the mathematical problems connected with
the art of cutting metals and their application to the running of machine tools. Barth set
about his task with the zest that comes only from the joy of accomplishment, for the
success of Taylor's work depended upon Barth's success with the problems connected with
getting metal cutting on a scientific basis. The machine shop end of what became known as
the Taylor System of Scientific Management crystallized here. The combination of these two
minds, Barth's and Taylor's, was superb. Barth eventually solved problems on which Taylor
and his associates had been working for eighteen years by reducing Taylor's experiments to
mathematical formulas. By means of his own original slide rules, Barth later
revolutionized the methods of cutting metals in a number of other important machine shops.
The Barth compound slide rules developed at the Bethlehem Steel Company were in about the
same form as now used and constituted his first and most notable contribution to the field
of scientific management and industry.
Until 1901, when Taylor left Bethlehem, these experiments had been made only on steel,
for the simple reason that Taylor had always been connected with steel plants. In 1902
Taylor induced Barth to follow him to William Sellers and Company of Philadelphia, this
time for the purpose of conducting metal-cutting experiments on the next major metal, cast
iron. Here Barth worked for the next two years (December, 1901 to February, 1903).
The end Taylor had in view was the introduction of the slide rule method for running
the Sellers machines and the reorganization of its management. William Sellers was a
scientific-minded individual and spent much money delving into theoretical matters
connected with his business. Hence it fell to Barth to undertake the installation of the
principles of scientific management, and the necessary equipment and system, under
Taylor's guidance. Barth also conducted all the experiments at this plant, developing from
them formulas that were the forerunners of his slide rules for cast iron.
Earlier in his career Barth had worked for the Sellers Company. He was then singularly
fortunate in falling under the influence of such splendid men as William Sellers, Dr.
Coleman Sellers, John Sellers Bancroft, and Wilfred Lewis.
"To Mr. Lewis,"
Barth said, "I owe as much for inspiration to improve myself theoretically as
to the guidance of the other three men in my practical development as a draftsman and
After leaving this company for the second time, Barth prepared slide rule bases for the
Tabor Manufacturing Company of Philadelphia (March to September, 1903). These combined all
tool sizes for the first time--a stupendous saving being accomplished at this one stroke.
His son says of this period of his life: "Both these jobs commenced by improving
cutting methods and then flowed over into complete Taylor Systems. These two jobs in
management were father's schooling in management; thereafter he went it alone, although he
always kept in touch with Taylor until the latter's death."
DEVELOPMENT OF THE BARTH COMPOUND SLIDE RULES
Taylor and his earlier associates had struggled with the following
mechanical-mathematical problems: (1) How to predetermine the feed and speed of a lathe or
similar machine that would utilize the full power in a manner compatible with the
economical utilization of the cutting tool in removing a certain depth of metal from a
piece of work of given diameter and of a certain grade of hardness. (2) How to effect the
solution of the above problems in such a rapid manner that the time involved would not be
prohibitive with even very short machine operations.
Barth proved to be a worthy exponent of Taylor's principles and ideals, finally solving
these problems with eminent success.
H. L. Gantt, Barth's predecessor at the Bethlehem Steel Company, and S. I. Griswold
Knox had developed an instrument that combined a crude slide rule with a set of tables
incorporated on a common body. By means of this, an approximate cut could be made in a
manner that was a decided improvement on other earlier methods of solution that had been
used under Taylor's leadership.
Gantt had tried for weeks to construct a mathematical formula to represent the curves
determining the relations of depth of cut, feed, and speed, while all other variables were
held constant. Barth's experienced eye recognized that these curves might be represented
to a high degree of approximation by an empirical formula. He studied the problem and
experimented with preliminary charts until he incorporated his formula into a circular,
logarithmic slide rule, expressing the interrelation of depth of cut, feed, and speed. It
was a decided first-step improvement on its immediate predecessor. Gantt jocosely referred
to it as "Barth's merry-go-round." This adverse criticism only stimulated Barth
to renewed efforts, with the result that he soon constructed the straight slide rule, by
which an almost instantaneous solution of the problem was forthcoming. It differed
radically in principle from the two rules already mentioned.
Barth's main slide rules, as distinguished from his auxiliary rules, consisted of a
permanent body with adjustable slides, together with certain interchangeable parts;
usually one fixed and two slides for each machine, the particular properties or
qualifications of that machine being embodied on these parts. To incorporate this material
on the specific interchangeable parts for each machine required much engineering work as
well as special experience. The purpose of the main slide rule (Barth's complete speed and
feed slide rule) is to determine that combination of speed and feed which will remove the
most metal in the least time, due consideration being given to the capacity of the tool
and the power of the machine. The practice in vogue in machine shops at the time was
absurdly inefficient when compared with the improved slide rule system of predetermining
the feeds and speeds at which a machine tool ought to be run to do a piece of work in the
shortest possible time.
Barth's versatility in constructing and making use of slide rules was little short of
astounding. Among the most important of his main slide rules were his belt slide rule and
his gear slide rule. The story and description of the numerous slide rules that Barth
constructed would make a book in itself, for they ramified throughout the various
industries in which he worked.
Barth disclosed all that he could about the construction, use, and mathematical
formulas involved in his slide rules in a monumental series of articles called,
"Supplement to F. W. Taylor's,' On the Art of Cutting Metals.'"
was preceded long before by Taylor's address "On the Art of Cutting Metals,"
which he gave before a meeting of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers in
December, 1906. Taylor reviewed comprehensively the endeavors of himself and his
associates, over a period of twenty years, to put metal cutting on a scientific basis,
efforts which finally culminated in Barth's slide rules. In this paper every mathematical
formula save one was Barth's brain child; the diagrams and drawings in the article were
the work of Barth's son, Christian.
Perhaps Taylor never intended that address to be published; at any rate Barth's name as
a co-author was not included. Taylor later felt keenly the injustice to his friend and
urged Barth to write the "Supplement" mentioned above for two reasons: to
remedy this error, and to enable other engineers to understand and to construct and use
the slide rules merely alluded to in Taylor's own paper.
BARTH COST ACCOUNTING, TAYLOR METHOD
Barth was pre-eminent in cost accounting as far as Taylor's particular way of handling
costs and accounts is concerned. Such organizations as the Taylor Society and the National
Association considered Barth an authority on the subject and repeatedly referred to him at
times when they were trying to evaluate the principles of cost accounting correctly.
Neither Taylor nor Barth was interested so much in cost accounting as he was in the
production side of management, yet both had such a complete understanding of its
principles that they were considered authorities on the subject.
Besides the vast amount of work Barth did on slide rules, the standardization of
machine tools, and cost accounting, industry credits him with many other contributions in
the engineering and accounting fields. Barth had the "'satiable curiosity" of
Kipling's "elephant's child" when trying to discover whether a method or
proposition could be reduced to a mathematical solution. Out of this developed the Barth
premium system and the Barth standard wage scale, as well as his research on the
transmission of power by leather belting, from which he developed an improved theory and
new formula for the pulling power of the belt.
BARTH THE CONSULTING ENGINEER
Barth started in 1905 on his independent career as consulting engineer. In June, 1909,
he undertook the installation of scientific management in the United States Arsenal at
Watertown, Massachusetts. General William Crozier, formerly chief of ordnance, U.S.A., had
only the highest praise for Barth's valuable work.
For twenty years Barth went from plant to plant installing his slide rules and laying
the foundation stones of scientific management. He was an enthusiastic and inspiring
instructor when introducing this system. His influence on the mental and moral education
of many of the younger men who were assigned to assist him at various plants constituted
his greatest satisfaction.
Barth gave up his office in Philadelphia and retired from active work in May, 1923.
However he apparently could not withdraw from work with machines, for in 1926 he made the
most complete set of slide rules he ever undertook. His employer's testimony follows in
Mr. Barth stands out pre-eminently on such matters as the laws of cutting metal; the
mathematics or science involved in the use of leather belts; the harmonious speeding of
machinery and certain other mathematical formulae pertaining to mechanical engineering
.... In the early periods of this work Mr. Barth partially got his idea of harmoniously
speeding machinery from music. He established certain desirable increments in geometrical
progression for the speeding of machinery and also for many other things relative to the
correct speed and feed design of machinery. He was the early pioneer in this form of
To trace his various contributions that run through the whole field of mechanical
engineering in the industries and colleges he was affiliated with, would be a difficult
task as they have been numerous. He developed management features outside of engineering
as well. His mathematical ability enables him to see straight on any problem to which
mathematical proportion or reason applies. I recollect his telling me that he spent
considerable thought over a period of fifteen years, as a young man, searching for a
better way of presenting and associating one branch of mathematics with another. His belt
formulae, which can be put on a sheet of paper or perhaps a slide rule, covered research
in the subject over a period of ten years .... He works in true scientific fashion and
this truthfulness in dealing with his subject is also his truthfulness in the ethical
sense. He understands the fundamentals of the subject he treats. Everything that Mr. Barth
has ever done for me personally or for companies that I have been associated with, has
been of the highest order
Barth would not take advantage of legitimate business when he thought the end results
would be unsatisfactory. For instance, a Russian engineer once offered him a handsome sum
for the privilege of using the Barth slide rules in Russia together with the instructions
for manipulating them. This offer was refused because Barth realized the slide rules would
prove to be gold bricks in the fellow's hand in Russia.
When Barth had saved enough to suffice for the rest of his life, he retired to enjoy
life in his old age. More than ever he dedicated himself to the well-being of his fellow
men. He spent his funds unostentatiously, generously helping his friends and others
heavily burdened or mowed down by adversity. His activities after retirement carried him
back into the realm of mathematics--to him a never-ending source of joy and adventure.
Barth had an impatience almost bordering on contempt for the usually accepted
authorities in textbooks and handbooks. Tables of logarithms computed by others were about
all that he did not challenge. He worked out an independent philosophy of the fundamentals
of differential, integral calculus which represented years of ardent seeking for light on
a subject that he considered poorly presented in textbooks. He found a simpler method of
presenting calculus to the uninitiated than prevailed in our schools; and as a result
began compiling a book which he called, "An Unconventional Introduction to
Calculus." But death overtook him before he had the book ready for publication. Barth
veritably lived and died with his mathematics. Characteristically enough, a few hours
before his death, while receiving a treatment, he animated the procedure by explaining the
use of logarithms and the slide rule to his physician.
Barth attracted illustrious men to himself. In reviewing the opinions of hundreds of
pre-eminent men who are scions of industry today--his contemporaries and associates--the
writer finds that they generously concur in testifying to Barth's uncanny mathematical
skills, to his indomitable qualities of perseverance in overcoming handicaps, and to his
irreproachable integrity. They agree pretty well that his research was the most
spectacular and important of all the work done by the Taylor group in developing the
science of management. Many of these men made history, too, in various aspects of the
management movement as outlined by F. W. Taylor. They had first-hand information on Carl
G. Barth's work and are unanimous in the opinion that public acclaim be given this
Great as were Carl Barth's contributions to industry, perhaps his greatest donation was
the gift of himself to the land of his adoption--an inspiration to all who were privileged
to come under his influence. That Barth as a man is attaining only now some measure of
appreciation fittingly proves one of his favorite Norwegian proverbs that singularly suits
his passing, "Nobody knows the day till the sun goes down."
<1> Frank B. Copley to the writer, April 14, 1927.
<2> Engineers' Club, Proceedings, vol. 10, no. 1 (Philadelphia, January,
<3> G. A. Goodenough to the writer, 1927.
<4> Dr. Coleman Sellers was the consulting engineer who was responsible for the
first hydroelectric plant at Niagara. Lewis was the company's first theoretically trained
<5> J. Christian Barth to the writer, September, 1941.
<6> Industrial Management Magazine, beginning September, 1919.
<7> G. E. Schultz to the writer, April 28, 1927.