Stumpf, William E. 1936-2006

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Stumpf, William E. 1936-2006
(Bill Stumpf)


See index for CA sketch: Born March 1, 1936, in St. Louis, MO; died of complications following abdominal surgery, August 30, 2006, in Rochester, MN. Designer, business owner, and author. Stumpf was an award-winning furniture designer best known for the Ergon and Aeron chairs. He graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1960 and earned his master's degree from the University of Wisconsin—Madison in 1968. Furniture company Herman Miller, Inc., hired him in 1970. Although he founded his own company in 1972, he continued to collaborate with Herman Miller for the next three decades. Stumpf's first big success as a designer was the Ergon chair, which he created in 1976. Its design was so groundbreaking that a sample chair is kept at New York City's Museum of Modern Art. The chair was unique in that instead of relying on upholstery for comfort, it used a design that conformed to the human body and had adjustable parts so that it suited people of various sizes. Collaborating with colleague Don Chadwick, Stumpf followed the Ergon chair with the Equa chair in 1984, and the Aeron chair in the early 1990s. The Aeron chair quickly became the model for office furniture around the world. Stumpf was a sought-after lecturer and teacher, as well, and shared his views as a guest of such institutions as the Illinois Institute of Technology, the Glasgow School of Art, and the Royal College of Art. The author of Julia's Kitchen: A Design Anatomy (1977) with N. Polites, and The Ice Palace That Melted Away: Restoring Civility and Other Lost Virtues in Everyday Design (1998), he was awarded the National Design Award for product design in 2006, but he passed away before the prize could be presented to him.



Chicago Tribune, September 4, 2006, section 3, p. 9.

Los Angeles Times, September 2, 2006, p. B15.

New York Times, September 10, 2006, p. C15.

Times (London, England), September 28, 2006, p. 71.

Washington Post, September 5, 2006, p. B6.