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HFESA Announces the passing of Errol Hoffman

Date:28 Feb 2019

Errol R. Hoffmann 1938-2019

It is with sadness that we report the passing of Errol Hoffmann in this brief elegy to his distinguished professional career. Errol’s work is well-known worldwide from his extensive research publications, his teaching and mentoring especially at the University of Melbourne, and his service to the profession of Human Factors Engineering/Ergonomics.

Errol held a Bachelor of Engineering, Master of Engineering Science and PhD from the University of Melbourne. He began as an aeronautical and mechanical engineer, conducting research in fluid dynamics under the supervision of Professor Peter Joubert. He then followed opportunities in the field of human factors, initially focusing on driving studies.

His research on factors affecting driver control of motor vehicles, design of information displays for car drivers and seat belt design had great impact, guiding several Australian safety standards including those for seat belt location points. Errol was among those from the Department of Mechanical Engineering who successfully advocated for mandatory seat belts in Victoria. Students at the University of Melbourne during the 1980s may recall his contributions to a subject on racing car design, which exposed students to real world experiences of car dynamics and control.

His interests moved to mathematical models for the control of human movement, and the effects of control/display compatibility on human performance. His studies typically centered around a practical industrial problem such as setting time standards or work methods for tasks such as mail sorting, or the design of water taps. Based on these problems, he developed theoretical models of factors affecting performance that guided data collection for establishing model validity. He became an acknowledged world authority in both fields, with noteworthy contributions including the rigorous formulation of movements as either ballistic or visually-controlled, and universally predictive models of display control stereotypes.

Errol actively served the profession in Australia and abroad. He was a member of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society of Australia (HFESA) from early in his career, served as President between 1980-1982, and was elected an Honorary Fellow in recognition of his services to the organization. He was a former Editor of one of the most prestigious journals in the field (Ergonomics).

Errol’s contributions to ergonomics have been recognized through the A. R. Lauer Safety Award from the US Human Factors and Ergonomics Society (HFES) in 1983, the Alan Welford Award from HFESA in 2010, and the Hendrick Distinguished International Colleague Award of the HFES in 2018. His research portfolio comprised 140 papers in top archival journals in 2018 and continues as other papers are currently in review.

Errol took early retirement from the University of Melbourne in 1996. He moved with his wife Dot to the Grampians but continued to teach and research with colleagues at University at Buffalo (The State University of New York), Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, and City University of Hong Kong. He is greatly missed by his colleagues, for his generation of ideas, his quantitative skills in testing these ideas, intellect and his innate good humor.

Colin Drury with contributions from Errol’s family and numerous colleagues, Feb 2019