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Background - 13.03.2020 - 00:00

History Lesson: Charles Lattmann – the first Doctor of Economic Sciences

Charles Lattmann was awarded the first Doctor’s degree at the HSG. Later, his research made him a pioneer of human resource management and operational anthropology.

Charles Lattmann was born as an expat in New York on 7 April 1913. His mother was French, his father Swiss. He grew up in Cleveland and Geneva. He spent his secondary school years in Winterthur. His roots in different cultures and language areas were also reflected in where he studied later: St.Gallen, Geneva (economic sciences), Rome and Zurich (psychology, sociology and philosophy).

First Doctor’s degree awarded by the Graduate School (1941)

To fund his doctoral studies during the economically difficult war years, Charles Lattmann worked as a teacher besides doing active military service. In 1941, he was awarded the first doctorate by the St.Gallen Graduate School for his thesis on the character of business administration according to the German, Italian and French literature. In the post-war years, he worked as a teacher for many years before becoming the director of St.Gallen’s Institut auf dem Rosenberg boarding school.

In the early 1960s, Charles Lattmann succeeded in introducing in-house courses for senior managers at Swissair, “Switzerland’s most dynamic company”. In 1967, he habilitated at ETH Zurich and was entrusted with a teaching position as a professor by the HSG from 1968 to 1970. He focused on problems of long-term human resource planning and issues of motivation research.

Switzerland’s first Full Professor of Human Resource Management (1970)

In 1970, Charles Lattmann was appointed the HSG’s Full Professor of Business Administration with special focus on human resource management. Human resource management was introduced as a specialisation. From then on, he lectured not only on the human resource function in the company but also about work studies, i.e. about the psychological and physiological fundamentals of work and work structure.

Besides his teaching activities at the Institute of Business Management (IfB-HSG), he also devoted himself to practice and research. As early as 1972, he published work on self-regulation working groups. His books, among them one on performance assessment as a management tool (Die Leistungsbeurteilung als Führungsmittel, 1975) and one on management by objectives (Führung durch Zielsetzung, 1977), were of trail-blazing significance for research and practice.

Fifteen years of teaching at the HSG

Lattmann’s special field was organisation psychology. He developed an operational anthropology that was rooted in humanism long before business and corporate ethics were introduced into academia. He placed a particular focus on issues of the humanisation of work in the context of changing, primarily technological conditions. The results of his fifteen years of teaching at the HSG were reflected in a book on the management of human resources from the perspective of behavioural science (Die verhaltenswissenschaftlichen Grundlagen der Führung des Mitarbeiters, 1982).

On his retirement in 1983, the then President Prof. Hans Siegwart and Dr. Gilbert Probst edited a festschrift with contributions on human resource management and social change (Mitarbeiterführung und gesellschaftlicher Wandel). This book dealt with numerous issues which had occupied Prof. Charles Lattmann in the preceding years in the light of his critical propositions regarding society.

An indefatigable researcher

After Charles Lattmann had retired from the faculty of the HSG, he again spent more time on lecturing and consultancy, but particularly on his research and publication projects. In his second home on the island of Elba, he found the time and leisure for writing. The result of this reflected his multicultural experience, his many-faceted erudition and his special linguistic talent (he had an oral and a written command of eight languages). His work of that time included a book on corporate culture, its foundation and significance for corporate management (Die Unternehmungskultur, ihre Grundlage und ihre Bedeutung für die Führung der Unternehmung, 1990) and one on the human resource function of companies between humaneness and economic rationality (Die Personalfunktion der Unternehmung im Spannungsfeld von Humanität und wirtschaftlicher Rationalität, 1995).

Prof. Charles Lattmann died on Elba (Italy) on 23 August 1995.

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