Money, Banks and Finance in Economic Thought

The Invention of Innovation: Gilfillan and Schumpeter, 1934-1935.


The aim of the article is to pursue our study of Schumpeter’s relationship with the American sociologist of invention Seabury Gilfillan, focusing on their approaches to the notions of invention and innovation. To do so, we examine Gilfillan’s correspondence with Schumpeter in 1934-1935 as found in Gilfillan’s archives at Case Western Reserve University. We first compare Gilfillan’s and Schumpeter’s approaches to business cycles and focus on the four main topics of a list of instructions Schumpeter sent to Gilfillan: the definition of invention and innovation, the relationship between invention and innovation, the distinction between fundamental and induced innovations, and the possibility of assigning a conception date to innovations. Our thesis is that the divergences between Gilfillan and Schumpeter can be explained by their different approaches to causality, disciplinary perspectives, and representations of what evolution means and entails.


Keywords: Gilfillan; Schumpeter; Evolution; Business Cycles; Invention; Innovation; Sociology

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