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On the shoulders of science – early science as a driver of innovation during the early industrial revolution

Koschnick, Julius Johannes (2023) On the shoulders of science – early science as a driver of innovation during the early industrial revolution. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Identification Number: 10.21953/lse.00004620


The thesis investigates the knowledge economy of early modern England. It studies mechanisms of knowledge transmissions, knowledge spillovers, and the formation of uppertail human capital. The thesis concludes that throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth century, early science and technology started to increasingly interact with each other. At the end of the eighteenth century, this interaction led to increased innovativeness in technological progress. First, the thesis investigates teacher-directed scientific change at the universities of Oxford and Cambridge in the seventeenth century. It shows that the direction of the English Scientific Revolution was partly determined by teacher-student exposure at universities. This finding highlights the importance of universities and the composition of the teaching force at universities for a country’s long-run research trajectory. Next, the thesis investigates how the knowledge generated within the Scientific Revolution interacted with technological knowledge. Specifically, the thesis tests Mokyr’s theory of a feedback mechanism between propositional and prescriptive knowledge. Using natural language processing techniques, it shows that throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth century the strength of feedback signals between propositional and prescriptive knowledge increased continuously. Additionally, the thesis investigates how local industrialization led to an increase in local human capital formation, thereby highlighting a mechanism for access to science in places where it was needed most. In a last step, the thesis investigates the role of scientific knowledge for practical innovations. It shows that patents with a high similarity to science were more innovative than other patents. Investigating the mechanism between science and technology, the paper argues that systematic quantification and precise measurement were at the heart of the connection between early science and technology.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2023 Julius Johannes Koschnick
Library of Congress subject classification: D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
H Social Sciences > HC Economic History and Conditions
Q Science > Q Science (General)
Sets: Departments > Economic History
Supervisor: Schulze, Max-Stephan and Dittmar, Jeremiah

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