The History of the Ergonomic Chair

The History of the Ergonomic Chairthumbnail
This type of chair evolves with the changing workplace.

Starting as a basic-enough solution to the backaches and sore necks that workers suffered from prolonged computer use, ergonomic chairs have turned into modern art. According to the American Heritage Dictionary, “ergonomics” refers to the science of equipment design to maximize musculoskeletal comfort and support, especially in the workplace. With funky chair backs, arms and design-centric features, ergonomic chairs have become healthy alternatives for the office.

  1. Term

    • Polish biologist Wojciech Jastrzebowski created the term “ergonomics” in 1857. Derived from the Greek words “ergon” (work) and “nomos” (natural laws), he used the word in an article he wrote which, translated from Polish, is “The Outline of Ergonomics, i.e. Science of Work, Based on the Truths Taken from the Natural Science.” The term “ergonomics” entered the language and stuck.

    Earliest Ergonomics

    • According to, a site that provides information for interested buyers, workplaces and musculoskeletal injury associations have been happening for centuries. Bernardino Ramazinni (1633-1714), a medical practitioner, complained of work-related injuries in a 1700s supplement called “De Morbis Artificum” (Diseases of Workers).

    Factories to Offices

    • Developed in the 1950s, the science behind ergonomics applied primarily to factory workers who sustained injuries, like arthritis, from repetitive labor.

      However, with the approach of computers and the office workplace in the 1980s, furniture designers needed to think of new office designs for people continually at work on computers.

      Office workers began complaining of aches and pains caused from prolonged sitting. Companies had to recognize these injuries as workplace injuries and pay medical support to employees who suffered backaches, neck cramps, arthritis from typing from an incorrect angle, and other ailments.

    First Chair: Wildfred Dauphin

    • Office workers in the 1980s complained of aches and pains from sitting.

      In 1968, Wilfred Dauphin, a German, was hired by a British company to research the impact of the computer on office furniture requirements. Because the British firm could not implement his full idea, he and his wife founded their own company out of their garage. Dauphin created the first ergonomic chair–a basic chair that allowed sitters to adjust the back and seat height. The market for these comfortable, adjustable chairs arose in Germany and spread around Europe and into the United States.


    • The first ergonomic chairs featured adjustable seats and wheels.

      In the 1980s and 1990s, ergonomic chairs met the basic requirements for producing healthier ways to sit and type. Chairs included wheels, a lever to adjust height, lower back support, and the correct heights for viewing and typing with straight wrists. Chairs were simple in design and aesthetic but met the general ergonomic guidelines.

      By 2010 chairs had become works of modern art. Space Age looking chairs feature rounded back support, mesh netting fabric for comfort and posture, tall and ribbed backs, and dental-looking chairs that exactly fit the curvature of the spine.


    • As of 2010, furniture designers had developed chairs for the modern worker who is glued to her computer not only for work but also in her off hours, browsing the Web, writing blogs, and posting photos.

      Chair types include kneeling chairs (where the worker sits with their thighs at an angle of about 60 degrees to 70 degrees from the original 90 degrees); ball chairs, where the worker sits in an egglike chair to talk on the phone or work on a laptop with a relaxed back; and the bubble chair, patented by Finnish designer Eero Aarnio in 1968, that looks similar to the ball chair but hangs from a chain on the ceiling. Although bubble chairs are not ideal for the office, they are comfortable and stylish additions to lounges, libraries and other communal spaces.

    Modern Requirements

    • The backs of modern chairs curve with the spine, not against it.

      According to the website of UbuntuToronto, an ergonomic product company, an interested shopper looking to buy needs to look for a truly ergonomic chair’s standard features. When seated, the back of the chair should curve with the spine. Your feet should rest level on the floor or footrest, and your shoulders should relax with the elbows close to the body. Ergonomic chairs also typically have wheels for easy swiveling and relocating without the user having to constantly stand up and sit down, which strains back muscles.

    By Noelle Carver, eHow Contributor

Ergonomic Evolution is your source for the most progressive ergonomic consulting and equipment. We do not address the”rules” we address the user and the task as a completely independent situation with its own rules. Contact us today to find out how we can address your ergonomic issues and get you and your business on the path of working healthy, safely, efficiently, and naturally.

7 thoughts on “The History of the Ergonomic Chair

  1. The use of ergonomic wheelchair can reduces back pain and shoulder pain. But it is only effective if the posture of the person is also correct. Even the employees also work productively if they are physically fit.

  2. Probably the most important aspect of a good ergonomic chair is movement. The chair should follow and support the user and allow for varied seating positions. Decent ergonomic chairs will pivot to facilitate this and have adjustable tension control to deal with different user weights. The curve behind the spine (lumbar feature) you mention is also very important to maintain a natural s-shape of the spine.

    Thanks Jack, We have a saying here at Ergonomic Evolution, “The best position is the next position.” Thanks for your thoughts. Best regards, Nick McElhiney, CEO Ergonomic Evolution.

  3. I think it is better to manufacture ergonomic chairs keeping height of the user in mind. Same as pants and shirts because some one may feel much comfortable in a chair and it may not be suited for some other user.

  4. Ergonomic chairs are the style of chair that will make it pleasant for you to sit in and at your desk for a extended time period of time with no experience like you are sitting much too very long. The majority of periods secretaries, ideas, office employees, date entry staff and even generally students feel cramps and pained when they get up soon after sitting far too lengthy. If you are locating that you are sitting for hours on end, you owe it to your system to get an ergonomic chair that is really going to suit your shape.

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