Polytechnic School of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Title: Coulomb´s memoir on human-machine interaction
Biography: Agamenon R E Oliveira
Coulomb´s memoir “On the Men´s Force” is an attempt to understand human work mechanically and is the first publication on physiology and ergonomics. Historically, the approach used by Coulomb to study the problem of fatigue with a mechanical model has an important meaning that is to consider the old question of how to measure human capacity to do a day’s work. His basic concern was to measure mean values of work in a day and not maximum or minimum values. In other words, Coulomb was looking for an actual measurement of work in a regular day’s work. In 1821, Coulomb’s mechanical studies were published, including the memoir “On the Men´s Force”. By introducing the question of human work as a machine operation, it was possible to study the work carried out by a machine economically. This double analogy created the conditions to construct the concepts of net-work and global work applied to a given machine in order to measure its efficiency, costs, energy consumption, etc., providing the necessary theoretical tools to compare two different machines. “On the Men´s Force” should be considered a pioneering work in modern biomechanics, notwithstanding the many studies since antiquity, mainly addressed at the development of robotics in which it is attempted to reproduce the movement of animals and man. What in fact makes the difference in Coulomb’s memoir is the application of the concept of quantity of action (later called work) to obtain a mathematical model using the new tools of Rational Mechanics and differential calculus.