"The Evolution of Useful Knowledge: Great Inventors, Science and Technology in British Economic Development, 1750-1930"


Khan, B. Zorina

"This paper provides an empirical assessment of the contribution of different types of knowledge to British industrialization. Endogenous growth models are based on the premise that knowledge, ideas and induced innovation comprise a significant source of economic development. These theories raise fundamental questions about the nature of human capital, knowledge, skills, and other characteristics that are conducive to extraordinary creativity, and how those factors vary over time and field of endeavor. They imply that our understanding of economic progress requires an assessment of the types of knowledge inputs that are in elastic supply, and how they respond to economic incentives. Walt Rostow, for instance, contended that one of the preconditions for economic and social progress is an advance in scientific knowledge and applications, inputs which typically are scarce in many developing countries. 1 Nathan Rosenberg similarly highlights the determining role of science and specialized knowledge in economic advances. 2 Others regard scientists as disinterested individuals who are motivated by intangible rewards such as enhanced reputations and honour, the desire to benefit mankind, or the pursuit of timeless truths, rather than material benefits. If highly specialized skills and scientific knowledge are prerequisites for generating productivity gains, but such inputs are in scarce or inelastic supply, this has important implications for development policy measures. .."



United States

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