David Meister conquered all the pinnacles in his profession, Human Factors and Ergonomics (HFE), sailed past the normal retirement age and continued contributing to the understanding and applications of his field until his very last days. He died at 81 on March 23 in California of complications from congestive heart failure.
One former associate, Steven Casey, Ph.D.,CPE, remembers Dr. Meister as “the most prolific writer in the history of the profession and one of the field’s greatest philosophers. The President of Ergonomic Systems Design, Inc. in California, Dr. Casey worked with the late ergonomist in the 1990’s on a landmark ergonomics certification program.
Hal Hendrick, Ph.D., CPE, DABFE, another associate on the certification team, echoed the tribute. “Dave not only was a huge influence on the development of the HFE discipline in the United States, but throughout the world,” he said.
Dr. Meister was born in New York in 1924 to parents who had emigrated from Poland and Lithuania, according to the capsule biography published in the San Diego’s Union-Tribune newspaper on April 2. During World War II, he served in the Army in the early days of human-factors engineering in aircraft cockpits. His academic grounding was in experimental psychology, and he earned a bachelor’s degree from New York University, then a master’s in that field from the University of Iowa. From 1964 to 1972, he worked for Bunker-Ramo Corp., with top secret clearances for government projects. A sojourn at the United States Army Research Institute in Arlington, Virginia, led to an assignment with the Navy Personnel Research & Development Center in San Diego in 1975. Dr. Meister’s first wife, Shirley Eloise Meister, died in May 1978. His second wife, Mary Ann Myers, and a sister, Beatrice Federman, survive him.
Dr. Meister, 1974-75 President of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society (HFES), who earned a Ph.D. in his field from the University of Kansas, helped shape both his profession and its practitioners.
Dr. Hendrick acknowledges the distinguished ergonomist’s impact on his own career. Now Emeritus Professor of Human Factors and Ergonomics at the University of Southern California and Principal of Hendrick & Associates, he said Dr. Meister’s publications first influenced him while he was still a graduate student at Purdue in the 1960s. “Later, as a professor myself, I was influenced by Dave’s insistence that our research be relevant and meaningful, and that we needed to focus on research that would eventually enable us to predict the effects of our human factors/ergonomics interventions.”
Dr. Hendrick is renowned for conceptualizing and initiating the sub-discipline of macroergomics. He thanks Dr. Meister for a helping hand at a critical juncture. “To my surprise, Dave was very supportive and noted publicly that it might be the most significant new development in the discipline in decades. I say