Kenneth L. Sokoloff: Economics historian, dies at 54





Kenneth L. Sokoloff, an economic historian who was a leading expert on the role the United States patent system played in technological and productivity advances in the 19th century, died on Monday in Los Angeles. He was 54.

The cause was liver cancer, said his father, Dr. Louis Sokoloff.

Mr. Sokoloff, an economics professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, found that in the early age of industrialization, the American patent system was uniquely structured to encourage technological advances by ordinary people. As a result, the country's productivity grew significantly. The vibrant market for patented technology in the late 19th century created a group of specialized inventors, like Thomas Edison, who generated a vast number of technological advances, Mr. Sokoloff said.

In the 20th century, as capital markets changed and financing became more difficult for individuals to obtain, large companies increasingly took over the role of generating new technologies.

Mr. Sokoloff found that the present-day environment had reverted to the 19th-century situation, with individuals and small companies once again generating new technologies that they then sell to larger firms, said Naomi R. Lamoreaux, a professor of economics and history at U.C.L.A. who was co-author of several studies with Mr. Sokoloff.


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