Chapanis, Alphonse.

Alternative names
Birth 1917-03-17
Death 2002-10-04

Biographical notes:

Alphonse Chapanis was born in Meriden, Connecticut on March 17, 1917. He received his BA in 1937 from the University of Connecticut. His senior thesis work led him to an assistantship in Walter Miles' physiological psychology lab at Yale. Although initially attracted to mathematical and experimental work, Chapanis soon learned about the importance and utility of applied psychological work. At Yale, Chapanis completed his MA in 1942, and his PhD in 1943. While working on his graduate degrees, Chapanis spent a year (1939-1940) working as a statistician for the Department of Public Health in Franklin Tennessee.

After receiving his doctorate, Chapanis joined the Army Air Force's Aero Medical Lab at Wright Field in Dayton, Ohio. He worked on various projects related to flight such as night flying, g force effects, and high altitude flying issues. Assigned to investigate B-17 bomber crashes, he noticed that poor cockpit design had led to piloting problems. After leaving the Army in 1946, Chapanis joined the Systems Research Field Laboratory of Johns Hopkins University. A year of work there led him to join Johns Hopkins Psychology Department as an Assistant Professor in 1947. In 1949 Chapanis became a professor in psychology and industrial engineering in 1955, and a professor of psychology in 1963.

Chapanis authored over 170 articles and 6 books as well as a multitude of unpublished research and reports on human factors engineering. The book Applied Experimental Psychology: Human Factors in Engineering Design that Chapanis co-authored with Garner and Morgan was the first ergonomics text.

Chapanis also engaged in a variety of consulting work for private companies and the military. His ergonomics design led to developments such as the standard configuration of push button telephones.

Chapanis served as the 1960-1961 President of APA Division 21, the 1963-1964 President of the Human Factors Society and the 1976-1979 President of the International Ergonomics Association. He was a Fellow of the American Psychological Association, Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, Society of Experimental Psychologists, American Psychological Society, and American Association for the Advancement of Science. The APA conferred the 1978 Distinguished Contribution for Applications in Psychology Award upon him as well as numerous ergonomics related awards. The Human Factors and Ergonomics Society renamed its Best Student Paper Award the Alphonse Chapanis Award in 1983.

Chapanis died on October 4, 2002 at the age of 85.

From the guide to the Alphonse Chapanis papers, 1934-2002, (Center for the History of Psychology)


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Ark ID:


  • B-17 bomber


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  • Wright Field (Ohio) (as recorded)