The Johnson O'Connor Research Foundation, Inc. grew from a testing program begun in 1922 by Mr. Johnson O'Connor for the General Electric Company in Massachusetts. Mr. O'Connor, who had graduated from Harvard University, started working at General Electric because he wanted to learn about engineering. One of his main projects was trying to find ways to increase efficiency in an effort to reduce overall costs. Along with Mr. F.P. Cox, Mr. O'Connor theorized that if people were doing work that was natural to their abilities, efficiency would increase and employees would be more satisfied and productive.
Mr. O'Connor and Mr. Cox decided to analyze various jobs to see if they could identify the natural ability each one would need. One of the first jobs analyzed was that of meter assemblers. A dexterity test, which is still in use today, was designed and administered to nearly all of General Electric's 3,000 employees, most of whom had volunteered to be involved in Mr. O'Connor's work. From that one test, the Foundation was born.
As they continued to work on test development and analyses, the point of view of what they were doing was slowly shifting. Mr. O'Connor and Mr. Cox now began to consider individuals first, instead of their particular jobs, becoming more interested in placing them in the jobs most suitable to their abilities.
Soon, employees wanted to have their children tested because they felt that students could also benefit from learning about their aptitudes, and Mr. O'Connor was hard-pressed to keep up with the demand. He began doing testing in his own time, and started thinking about setting up an actual testing center. The first office, the Human Engineering Laboratory, was established on Beacon Street, in Boston's Back Bay neighborhood, in 1938. A center in Chicago came soon thereafter, in conjunction with what is now the Illinois Institute of Technology.
In 1939, the Johnson O'Connor Research Foundation / Human Engineering Laboratory, Inc. was incorporated as a nonprofit educational and scientific organization. Since then, hundreds of thousands of people have found out about their natural abilities and used the information to make career and educational decisions. The Foundation now has eleven offices around the United States, as well as a Research Department located in Chicago.
George Wyatt, President of the Foundation from 1978 to 1993, relates his personal memories in Johnson O'Connor: A Portrait from Memory.