Flow of Ideas: Economic Societies and the Rise of Useful Knowledge
The Enlightenment created a culture of exchange of scientific ideas that laid the pre-conditions for the industrialization of Europe. We argue that economic societies were important intermediaries that translated scientific knowledge into useful knowledge. We test this hypothesis by combining information on circa 4,000 society members from the membership lists of all relevant patriotic economic societies within the German lands with several measures of innovation and upper-tail human capital. We find a robust positive relationship between the local member density and the number of valuable patents, exhibitors at world fair, and highly-skilled mechanical workers. We further show that grid-cell pairs with members from the same society show a higher technological similarity. We interpret it as evidence that economic societies generated information networks which fostered spatial knowledge diffusion and shaped the geography of innovation.
About Francesco Cinnirella
Francesco Cinnirella is also Research at the Center of Economic Studies at the University of Munich (CESifo) and Research Affiliate Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) and Research Associate at the Centre for Competetive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE) at the University of Warwick . He held visiting positions at the University of Munich, Mannheim, and Bayreuth. He was also Visiting Scholar at Brown University. He has won a competitive research grant from the German Research Foundation (DFG) and he has published in leading field journals such as the Journal of Economic Growth, Journal of Development Economics, Explorations in Economic History, and Demography.
Francesco Cinnirellas research focuses on the determinants of long-run growth and comparative development. In particular, he studies the complex interactions between fertility and education, the political-economic determinants of the accumulation of human capital, and the determinants of technological innovation.
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