That sort of thing just isn't taught in "straight" physics courses. You'll have to look for books and papers about the history of science. For example, there's Rene Dugas's "History of Mechanics" which I have in my office so I can't lay hands on it right now, but you can view pages on Google Books:
On page 128, he mentions Solomon of Caux, who published a book in the early 1600s. "It is to this author that we owe the term work
in the sense that it is used now." From the book's title, it appears to have been about the design of various types of machines, so I speculate
that the notion of work as force times distance originated with the use of levers and other simple machines, which "convert" a small force acting over a large distance to a large force acting over a small distance.