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A General-Purpose Technology at Work: The Corliss Steam Engine in the Late-Nineteenth-Century United States

In: Studies On Science And The Innovation Process Selected Works of Nathan Rosenberg

Author

Listed:
  • NATHAN ROSENBERG

    (Department of Economics, Stanford University, Economics, Bldg 228, Stanford, CA 94305-6072, USA and Canadian Institute of Advanced Research, Canada)

  • MANUEL TRAJTENBERG

    (Canadian Institute of Advanced Research, Canada and School of Economics, Tel Aviv University, Tel-Aviv 69978, Israel and National Bureau of Economic Research, USA)

Abstract

AbstractThe contribution to growth from the steam engine—Industrial Revolution icon and prime example of a “General Purpose Technology”—has remained unclear. This article examines the role that a particular design improvement in steam power, embodied in the Corliss engine, played in the growth of the U.S. economy in the late nineteenth century. Using detailed data on the location of Corliss engines and waterwheels and a two-stage estimation strategy, we show that the deployment of Corliss engines served as a catalyst for the industry's massive relocation into large urban centers, thus fueling agglomeration economies and further population growth.

Suggested Citation

  • Nathan Rosenberg & Manuel Trajtenberg, 2009. "A General-Purpose Technology at Work: The Corliss Steam Engine in the Late-Nineteenth-Century United States," World Scientific Book Chapters,in: Studies On Science And The Innovation Process Selected Works of Nathan Rosenberg, chapter 6, pages 97-135 World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd..
  • Handle: RePEc:wsi:wschap:9789814273596_0006
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    Keywords

    Science and Technology; Innovation; Research Development; Medical Innovation; Economic Growth; Development; Research Policy; Engineering;

    JEL classification:

    • L63 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Manufacturing - - - Microelectronics; Computers; Communications Equipment
    • O32 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Management of Technological Innovation and R&D
    • O33 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Technological Change: Choices and Consequences; Diffusion Processes
    • Q55 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Environmental Economics: Technological Innovation

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