Seabury Gilfillan was an American sociologist who is considered a seminal but neglected author in invention studies. Gilfillan published his first important contributions to the sociology of invention at the end of the 1920s, and he corresponded with Schumpeter in the 1930s. Comparisons between the two authors show that they are closer than we might expect. Gilfillan rejected the hero and genius accounts of inventors and supported instead an anonymous view of the invention process. Nevertheless, as shown by previous literature, Gilfillan could not fully get rid of a genius representation of inventors. We argue that Gilfillan’s elitism can be explained by his lifelong support of eugenics, which he also used in his policy prescriptions to increase the “quality” of inventors. Engaging with Gilfillan’s adoption of eugenics is indispensable to understand his approach to inventors and inventions.
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Research Article| February 01 2021
Matthieu Ballandonne; Eugenics and the Interwar Approach to Inventors and Invention: The Case of Seabury Gilfillan. History of Political Economy 1 February 2021; 53 (1): 1–34. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00182702-8816589
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