Eugenics and the Interwar Approach to Inventors and Invention: The Case of Seabury Gilfillan

Ballandonne, Matthieu. 2021. "Eugenics and the Interwar Approach to Inventors and Invention: The Case of Seabury Gilfillan." History of Political Economy 53 (1): 1–34. https://doi.org/10.1215/00182702-8816589

Posted: 30 Apr 2017 Last revised: 9 Oct 2021

See all articles by Matthieu Ballandonne

Matthieu Ballandonne

Ecole Superieure Des Sciences Commerciales D'Angers (ESSCA)

Date Written: April 27, 2017

Abstract

Seabury Gilfillan was an American sociologist who is considered a seminal but neglected author in invention studies. Gilfillan published his first important contributions to the sociology of invention at the end of the 1920s, and he corresponded with Schumpeter in the 1930s. Comparisons between the two authors show that they are closer than we might expect. Gilfillan rejected the hero and genius accounts of inventors and supported instead an anonymous view of the invention process. Nevertheless, as shown by previous literature, Gilfillan could not fully get rid of a genius representation of inventors. We argue that Gilfillan’s elitism can be explained by his lifelong support of eugenics, which he also used in his policy prescriptions to increase the “quality” of inventors. Engaging with Gilfillan’s adoption of eugenics is indispensable to understand his approach to inventors and inventions.

Keywords: Gilfillan, Schumpeter, Invention, Innovation, Eugenics

JEL Classification: B25, B31, 031

Suggested Citation

Ballandonne, Matthieu, Eugenics and the Interwar Approach to Inventors and Invention: The Case of Seabury Gilfillan (April 27, 2017). Ballandonne, Matthieu. 2021. "Eugenics and the Interwar Approach to Inventors and Invention: The Case of Seabury Gilfillan." History of Political Economy 53 (1): 1–34. https://doi.org/10.1215/00182702-8816589 , Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2959651 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2959651

Matthieu Ballandonne (Contact Author)

Ecole Superieure Des Sciences Commerciales D'Angers (ESSCA) ( email )

1 rue Joseph Lakanal
BP 40348
Angers Cedex, 49003
France

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