Teacher-directed scientific change: The case of the English Scientific Revolution

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While economic factors in directed technical and scientific change have been widely studied, the role of teacher-directed scientific change has received less attention. This paper studies teacher-directed scientific change for one of the largest changes in the direction of research, the Scientific Revolution. Specifically, the paper considers the case of the English Scientific Revolution at the English universities of Oxford and Cambridge. It argues that exposure to different teachers shaped students’ direction of research and can partly account for the successful trajectory of English science. For this, the paper introduces a novel dataset on the universe of all 111,242 students at English universities in the seventeenth and early eighteenth century and matches them to their publications. Using machine learning, the paper is able to quantify personal interest in different research topics. To derive causal estimates of teacher-student effects, the paper exploits a natural experiment based on the expulsion of fellows following the English Civil War and uses an instrumental variable design that predicts students’ choice of college based on their home regions. The paper finds strong empirical evidence of teacher-directed change in the English Scientific Revolution. These results illustrate how teacher-directed change can contribute to paradigm change.

Julius Koschnick
Julius Koschnick
PhD Student

I am a PhD student at the Department of Economic History at the London School of Economics. I am on the job market this year. My research interests include long-run growth, human capital, knowledge transmission, and natural language processing.