Mayo was born on 26 December 1880 in Adelaide, the son of George Gibbes Mayo, draftsman and later civil engineer, and his wife Henrietta Mary, née Donaldson. After an attempt at a career in medicine through studies at the Universities of Adelaide, Edinburgh and London, Mayo took on a bohemian adventure, something quite ironical for a man who ended up three decades later as guru for American business managerialism.  He travelled West Africa, and wrote for magazines and taught English at the Working Men's College, London. Mayo returned to Adelaide in 1905, and by 1907 was studying at the University of Adelaide philosophy and psychology under William Mitchell. In 1911 Mayo became the first lecturer in moral and mental philosophy at the University of Queensland, and was appointed its first professor of philosophy in 1919. In the same year, Mayo produces his first book, Democracy and Freedom: An Essay in Social Logic.

Mayo’s sojourn in Queensland is brief, but he becomes an influential public figure, particularly in his role of lecturer for the Workers' Educational Association. By 1922 Mayo had left Queensland for a career in the United States of America.  Mayo establishes his reputation in the Hawthorne experiments on work output at the Western Electric Co.'s Chicago plant. Mayo’s major works, The Human Problems of an Industrial Civilisation (New York, 1933) and The Social Problems of an Industrial Civilisation (London, 1945) developed his earlier theme of improving industrial management through workers re-conceptualising their class warfare neurosis.

See George Elton Mayo on Scatterplot Matrix.


Bourke, Helen. 'Mayo, George Elton (1880–1949)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1986, accessed online 6 September 2015.

George Elton Mayo (1880–1949)

Professor of Philosophy and Business Management Theorist

Elton Mayo
Elton Mayo