Georges F Doriot

Georges Frederic Doriot's interest in manufacturing began at an early age. He was born in 1899 in France, where his father Auguste was a successful engineer for the Peugeot Motor Company and later ran his own car manufacturing company. Georges often visited the factory, and it was here that he became fascinated with mechanics and factory operations. With experience in the automobile industry, Georges was chosen to serve as an engineering officer in the French heavy artillery regiment during World War I. By the war's end, France had suffered enormous casualties and run up massive national debt; Auguste believed the best options for his son?s future lay in America.

Auguste planned for Georges to study at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and he gave his son a letter of introduction to A. Lawrence Lowell, the president of Harvard. "I looked for [Lowell] and found that he was President of a university called Harvard... In my family we had never heard of Harvard," Doriot remembered.2 When the young Frenchman told Lowell of his ambitions to run a factory, Lowell advised Doriot that Harvard Business School (HBS) would provide a more suitable education, and in the spring of 1921, Doriot enrolled at HBS. His first job the next year was at the New York & Foreign Development Corporation (an affiliate of the investment bank Kuhn, Loeb & Company), where he assessed investments in new technologies and made valuable connections in the financial world.

Georges F. Doriot, circa 1925. HBS Archives Photograph Collection: Faculty and Staff. HBS Archives, Baker Library, Harvard Business School. olvwork538390
"You gave, as needed, advice, encouragement, criticism. Always you have urged us into original and constructive thinking upon difficult problems."
HBS students to Georges F. Doriot, quoted in a letter from Georges F. Doriot to Alice and Lewis Strauss, 19281

In 1925, HBS Dean Wallace B. Donham offered Doriot a position as assistant dean.3 Doriot's career as an educator started when he began teaching Factory Problems and the Taylor System course.4 In 1926, the Dean appointed Doriot Associate Professor of Industrial Management and a few years later Professor of Industrial Management. Doriot taught Industrial Management and Manufacturing classes that focused on manufacturing methods and organization, material and labor, and conduct and control of production.

It was at this time that Doriot met Edna Allen, a research assistant at HBS. Edna had moved to Boston from Palo Alto, California where she was an assistant to the director of the Food Research Institute at Stanford. The couple married in a simple ceremony in New York in 1930. Over the course of their long marriage, Edna would come to support Georges in his work in countless ways as a devoted wife, friend, and confidant. They lived for many years in a townhouse on Beacon Hill in Boston where Doriot also enjoyed painting and writing poetry.

In 1937, Doriot introduced a second year course called Manufacturing, a class he created in his own distinct style. The description for the full year course noted students would be trained in "the thorough analysis of and in the administrative control of a manufacturing company....taken up not only from the standpoint of a man who has to reach decisions and carry them out, but also from the standpoint of such persons as bankers or consultants."5 The course emphasized "the study of products, new ideas, new developments and questions of research."6 The charismatic professor imbued the class with his philosophy on leadership and business ethics and helped students "develop a realistic grasp of executive problems and fitness for the discharge of managerial duties."7

From the beginning, Doriot connected the worlds of education and business. He believed teaching business administration should be based on the realities of running a company rather than academic theories. He drew from his own work as director of numerous companies, including Kansas City Southern Railroad, Standard Power & Light Corporation, and McKeesport Tin Plate, and as consultant to investment banking firms. Doriot taught Manufacturing for decades. In the early 1940s, however, he suspended his teaching activities to serve in World War II, where he came face to face with the high-pressure realities of the research and development of new products for the US military.

1 Georges F. Doriot to Alice and Lewis Strauss, 17 May 1928, Lewis L. Strauss Papers - Early Career Name and Subject Files - Doriot, Georges, 1928. Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum.
2 "Interview with General Georges F. Doriot," interview by Aulikki Olsen, 2 May 1980, 5. GFD-HBS
3 In 1924, a gift of $5,000,000 from George F. Baker, president of the First National Bank, enabled HBS to build a new campus across the river from Cambridge.
4 The HBS course Factory Problems and the Taylor System examined the management system concerning productivity and workflow developed by Frederic Winslow Taylor.
5 Official Register of Harvard University, Graduate School of Business Administration, vol. 34, no. 14. 9 April 1937, 65.
6 Ibid.
7 Ibid.