DP17013 The Rise of the Engineer: Inventing the Professional Inventor During the Industrial Revolution

Author(s): William Walker Hanlon
Publication Date: February 2022
Keyword(s): Engineering, industrial revolution, Innovation, patents
JEL(s):
Programme Areas: Economic History
Link to this Page: cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=17013

Why was the Industrial Revolution successful at generating sustained growth? Some have argued that there was a fundamental change in the way that new technology was developed during this period, but evidence for this argument remains largely anecdotal. This paper provides direct quantitative evidence showing that how innovation and design work was done changed fundamentally during the Industrial Revolution. This change was characterized by the professionalization of innovation and design work through the emergence of the engineering profession. I also propose a theory describing how this change could have acted as one mechanism behind the transition to modern economic growth.