It was at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where Stumpf, working with specialists in orthopedic and vascular medicine, conducted extensive research into ergonomics, specifically in the way people sit. In 1974, Herman Miller commissioned him to apply his research to office seating. Two years later, the Ergon chair was introduced.
He served in the U.S. Navy and then earned a bachelor's in industrial design from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and a master's in environmental design from the University of Wisconsin–Madison.
Stumpf's association with Herman Miller began in 1970 when he joined the staff of the Herman Miller Research Corporation. After establishing his own firm in 1972, Stumpf created the Ergon chair, the first ergonomic work chair. Later, in collaboration with Don Chadwick, he produced the groundbreaking Equa and iconic Aeron chairs. He also was principal designer for the Ethospace system.
Stumpf's death at age 70 was attributed to complications from abdominal surgery. He was married to Sharon Stumpf, and has five grandchildren: Gabriella, Erin, Max, David and Julia.
- Friedman, Mildred, Ed. A Serious Chair — Design Quarterly 126. Minneapolis and Cambridge: The Walker Art Center and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1984. ISSN 0011-9415
- Stumpf, William. Ice Palace That Melted Away: How Good Design Enhances Our Lives. New York: Pantheon Books, 1998. ISBN 0375402217
- Amy Auscherman, Sam Gawe, Leon Ransmeier, eds. "Ergon Chairs 1976" in Herman Miller A Way of Living. London: Phaidon Press, 2019. 430-487 ISBN 9780714875217
- Cliff Kuang (Nov 5, 2012). "The Secret History of the Aeron Chair". Slate. The Slate Group. Retrieved November 3, 2012.
- Louie, Elaine (September 10, 2006). "Obituary – Bill Stumpf, 70, a Designer of the Aeron Ergonomic Office Chair". The New York Times. Retrieved 2019-07-07.
- Bill Stumpf, The Ice Palace That Melted Away: How Good Design Enhances Our Lives, 192 pages, University of Minnesota Press(2000), ISBN 0-8166-3730-X.