The first part of this essay reviews Paul Douglas's twenty-year research program of using the Cobb-Douglas function to statistically estimate relationships between inputs and outputs. Emphasis is placed on the evolution of Douglas's own conceptualization of the program, and also the variety of views that arose among economists as to the significance of Douglas's results and, more generally, the potential value of the type of work he was doing. The second part examines the work of a group of agricultural economists who successfully established the Cobb-Douglas regression as a research tool in their field. They saw the regression as a way to address long-standing questions specific to agricultural economics. As a result, their defense and development of the method, as well as the criticisms they attracted from their colleagues, while drawing on the earlier literature surrounding Douglas's work, had noticeably different emphases and helped establish the Cobb-Douglas regression as a general purpose empirical tool for economists.

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