'Schemes of Practical Utility': Entrepreneurship and Innovation Among 'Great Inventors' in the United States, 1790-1865

32 Pages Posted: 18 Feb 2004 Last revised: 28 Sep 2013

See all articles by B. Zorina Khan

B. Zorina Khan

Bowdoin College - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Kenneth L. Sokoloff

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: October 1992

Abstract

The growth in inventive activity during early American industrialization is explored by examining the careers of 160 inventors credited with important technological discoveries. Analysis of biographical information and complete patent histories through 1865 indicates that these 'great inventors' were entrepreneurial and responded systematically to market demand. Their inventions were procyclical and originated disproportionately from localities linked with extensive markets. Although not exceptional in terms of schooling or technical skills, they vigorously pursued the returns to their inventions, redirected their inventive activity to meet emerging needs, and were distinguished by high geographical mobility towards districts conducive to invention.

Suggested Citation

Khan, B. Zorina and Sokoloff, Kenneth L., 'Schemes of Practical Utility': Entrepreneurship and Innovation Among 'Great Inventors' in the United States, 1790-1865 (October 1992). NBER Working Paper No. h0042. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=336265

B. Zorina Khan

Bowdoin College - Department of Economics ( email )

Brunswick, ME 04011
United States
207-725-3000 (Phone)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Kenneth L. Sokoloff (Contact Author)

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - Department of Economics ( email )

Box 951477
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1477
United States
310-825-4249,310-825-1011 (Phone)
310-825-9528 (Fax)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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