+1 Recommend
1 collections

      If you have found this article useful and you think it is important that researchers across the world have access, please consider donating, to ensure that this valuable collection remains Open Access.

      Prometheus is published by Pluto Journals, an Open Access publisher. This means that everyone has free and unlimited access to the full-text of all articles from our international collection of social science journalsFurthermore Pluto Journals authors don’t pay article processing charges (APCs).

      • Record: found
      • Abstract: found
      • Article: found
      Is Open Access


      Pluto Journals
      individual inventors, invention, creativity, patents


            Inasmuch as the efforts of independent inventors are appreciated at all, it is commonly argued that greater benefit would ensue from their inventions if the inventors possessed a more realistic understanding of the innovative process, and if the world were generally more sympathetic. There is sense in this view, but perhaps some consideration should be given to the impact such changes might have on the essential creativity of the independent inventor. It seems likely that this creativity is in part a product of adversity and might well be extinguished if conditions were made more conducive to the activities of the independent inventor.


            Author and article information

            Critical Studies in Innovation
            Pluto Journals
            December 1989
            : 7
            : 2
            : 333-348
            8629078 Prometheus, Vol. 7, No. 2, 1989: pp. 333–348
            Copyright Taylor & Francis Group, LLC

            All content is freely available without charge to users or their institutions. Users are allowed to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of the articles in this journal without asking prior permission of the publisher or the author. Articles published in the journal are distributed under a http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.

            Page count
            Figures: 0, Tables: 0, References: 39, Pages: 16
            Original Articles

            Computer science,Arts,Social & Behavioral Sciences,Law,History,Economics
            invention,patents,creativity,individual inventors


            1. See Barkev S. Saunders, ‘Some difficulties in measuring inventive activity’ in National Bureau of Economic Research, The Rate and Direction of Inventive Activity: Economic and Social Factors, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1962, pp. 53–77.

            2. Individuals received 81 per cent of US patents in 1901, but their share had declined to 25 per cent by the ‘sixties. F. M. Sherer, Industrial Market Structure and Economic Performance, Rand McNally, Chicago, 1980, p. 440. See also J. Jewkes, D. Sawers and R. Stillerman, The Sources of Invention, W.W. Norton, New York, 1969, pp. 88–9.

            3. Early acknowledgement of this trend is in J. A. Schumpeter, Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy, George Allen and Unwin, London, 1947, pp. 131–4; J. K. Galbraith, American Capitalism: the Concept of Countervailing Power, Houghton Mifflin, Cambridge, 1952, pp. 90–5.

            4. The author does not. See Stuart Macdonald, ‘Technology beyond machines’ in E. Rhodes and D. Wield (eds), Implementing New Technologies, Basil Blackwell, Oxford, 1985, pp. 41–9.

            5. A similar, though less extreme, problem exists in measuring R&D in small firms. Alfred Kleinknecht, ‘Measuring R&D in small firms: how much are we missing?’, Journal of Industrial Economics, 36, 2, 1987, pp. 253–6. See also Byron M. Vanderbilt, ‘The plight of the independent inventor’, IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, PC-22, 2, 1979, pp. 63–7.

            6. Stuart Macdonald, The Individual Inventor in Australia, Department of Economics, University of Queensland, February 1982, pp. 7–8.

            7. A tentative approach is made in Stuart Macdonald, ‘The distinctive research of the individual inventor’, Research Policy, 15, 1986, pp. 199–210.

            8. J. Jewkes, D. Sawers and R. Stillerman, op. cit.; W. F. Mueller, ‘The origins of the basic inventions underlying Du Pont's major product and process innovations, 1920 to 1950’ and J.L. Enos, ‘Invention and innovation in the petroleum refining industry’ in National Bureau of Economic Research, op. cit., pp. 323–46 and 299–321; W.D. Reekie, ‘Patent data as a guide to industrial productivity’, Research Policy, 2, 1973, pp. 246–64.

            9. F. M. Sherer, op. cit., p. 350; M. Gibbons and R. Johnston, ‘The roles of science in technological innovation’, Research Policy, 3, 1974, pp. 220–42.

            10. Thomas Mandeville and Stuart Macdonald, ‘Innovation protection viewed from an information perspective’ in William Kingston (ed.), Direct Protection of Innovation, Kluwer Academic, Dordrecht, 1987, pp. 157–70.

            11. E.g., Leonard de Vries, Victorian Inventors, John Murray, London, 1971; Leo Port, Australian Inventors, Cassell, Stanmore NSW, 1978; Edward de Bono (ed.), Eureka! How and When the Greatest Inventions Were Made, Thames and Hudson, London, 1974.

            12. Heinz Lipschutz, ‘Confessions of a frustrated inventor’, Electronics and Wireless World, 94, 1625, 1988, pp. 276–8.

            13. See Giorgio Sirilli, ‘Patents and inventors: an empirical study’, Research Policy, 16, 2, 1987, pp. 157–74.

            14. Nigel King and Michael A. West, ‘Experiences of innovation at work’, Journal of Management Psychology, 2, 3, 1987, pp. 6–10.

            15. E.g., F. M. Sherer, ‘Firm size, market structure, opportunity, and the output of potential inventions’, American Economic Review, 55, 5, 1965, pp. 1097–11125; Arnold Cooper, ‘R&D is more efficient in small companies’, Harvard Business Review, 42, 3, 1964, pp. 75–83.

            16. Arnold Cooper and Albert Bruno, ‘Success among high-technology firms’, Business Horizons, 20, 2, 1977, pp. 16–22; Roy Rothwell, ‘Small and medium sized manufacturing firms and technological innovation’, Management Decision, 16, 6, 1978, pp. 362–70.

            17. See Richard P. Nielson, Michael P. Peters and Robert D. Hisrich, ‘Intrapreneurship strategy for internal markets — corporate, non-profit and government institution cases’, Strategic Management Journal, 6, 2, 1985, pp. 181–9; Gifford Pinchot, ‘Innovation through intrapreneuring’, Research Management, 30, 2, 1986, pp. 14–19.

            18. See Christopher Freeman, John Clark and Luc Soete, Unemployment and Technical Innovation, Frances Pinter, London, 1982.

            19. See William J. Broad, ‘Novel technique shows Japanese outpace Americans in innovation’, New York Times, 7 March 1988, p. 1.

            20. Michael Gort and Rao Singamsetti, ‘Innovation and the personality profiles of firms’, International Journal of Industrial Organization, 5, 1987, pp. 115–26.

            21. Jack Gordon and Ron Zemke, ‘Making them more creative’, Training, 23, 5, 1986, pp. 30–45.

            22. See Saul Sands and Kenneth M. Warwick, ‘Successful business innovation. A survey of current professional views’, California Management Review, 20, 2, 1977, pp. 5–16.

            23. See T.J. Allen, M.L. Tushman and D.M. Lee, ‘Technology transfer as a function of position in the spectrum of research through development to technical services’, Academy of Management Journal, 21,4, 1978, pp. 694–708; David Hutchins, ‘Ringing the bell with quality circles’, Management Review and Digest, 8, 1, 1981, pp. 3–7.

            24. See Erik Baark, ‘High technology innovation at the Chinese Academy of Sciences’, Science and Public Policy, 15, 2, 1988, pp. 81–90.

            25. E.g., James Brian Quinn, ‘Technological innovation, entrepreneurship and strategy’, Sloan Management Review, 20, 3, 1979, pp. 19–30.

            26. See A. H. Nissan, ‘The role of the individual in innovation’ in W. Novis Smith and Charles F. Larson (eds), Innovation and U.S. Research. Problems and Recommendations, American Chemical Society, Washington DC, 1980, pp. 133–42.

            27. M.F.R. Kets de Vries, ‘The entrepreneurial personality: a person at the crossroads’, Journal of Management Studies, 14, 1977, pp. 34–57; idem., ‘The dark side of entrepreneurship’, Harvard Business Review, 6, 1985, pp. 160–7.

            28. See Nigel King and Michael A. West, op. cit.

            29. A seminal work adopting this technique is Jacob Schmookler, ‘Inventors past and present’, Review of Economics and Statistics, 39, 1957, pp. 321–33.

            30. See J. Taylor and A. Silberston, The Economic Impact of the Patent System, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1973, pp. 314–15; Nathan Rosenberg, ‘Science, invention and economic growth’, Economic Journal, 84, 333, 1974, pp. 90–108.

            31. Stuart Macdonald, ‘Australia — the patent system and the individual inventor’, European Intellectual Property Review, 6, 1983, pp. 154–9.

            32. Joseph Rossman, Industrial Creativity. The Psychology of the Inventor, University Books, New York, 1964.

            33. Geoffrey Smith, ‘It's better than chasing girls’, Forbes, 10 December 1979, pp. 85–9; Lee Smith, ‘The freelance inventor lives’, Fortune, 29 June, pp. 75–80.

            34. Published as Stuart Macdonald, ‘The distinctive research of the individual inventor’, Research Policy, 15, 1986, pp. 199–210.

            35. But see Fritz Hirschfeld, ‘The inventive urge is alive and well’, Mechanical Engineering, 102, 3, 1979, pp. 24–9.

            36. See, for example, Philip Wylie, ‘Driving ambition of an inventor’, The Engineer, 260, 1985, pp. 22–3; Sterling North, ‘Beating the Feds only the first test for the gasaver’, New England Business, 8, 12, 1986, pp. 38–9.

            37. Stuart Macdonald, ‘The individual inventor in Australia’. Australian Director, 13, 1, 1983, pp. 44–51.

            38. See Ray S. Brill, ‘Innovation in small business and the small business innovation research program’ in Southcon 84 Conference Record, Electronic Conventions Inc, Orlando, Florida, 4, 2/1, 1984, pp. 1–3.

            39. On the problem of separating the wheat from the chaff see L. J. Hartnett, Big Wheels and Little Wheels, Lansdowne Press, Melbourne, 1964, p. 140; Gerald G. Udell, ‘Unsolicited product ideas — a new evaluation program’, Research Management, 19, 4, 1976, pp. 14–17; Gerald G. Udell and Michael F. O'Neill, ‘Technology transfer: encouraging the noncorporate inventor’, Business Horizons, 20, 4, 1977, pp. 40–5.


            Comment on this article