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The English Patent System and Early Railway Technology 1800-1852

Murfitt, Stephen (2017) The English Patent System and Early Railway Technology 1800-1852. PhD thesis, University of York.

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Abstract

This thesis examines the relationship between the English patent system and early railway-related inventive activity, and it is proposed that the patent system influenced the rate and direction of early railway technology. Contrary to the current historiography of the patent system, it is argued that prior to the Patent Law Amendment Act (1852), in the absence of substantive Parliamentary intervention, the judiciary crafted and shaped the principles of patent law which provided certainty and security for patentees. Inventors involved in railway-related technology found great utility in a unique patent system which they used, relied upon, and promoted to their peers. The requirement post-1733 for a specification to be filed with a patent application, contributed to the origins of what today might be termed knowledge management. The patent system engendered a developing database of technical knowledge that was codified, controlled, circulated and commercially exploited. Profit was a key motive for those who patented railway-related inventions, which often involved high expenditure, of both time and money, and the patent system secured vital monopoly profits. The pecuniary advantage offered by an effective patent system served to incentivise the development and diffusion of early railway technology. This thesis demonstrates the value of industry-specific analysis of the workings of the patent system. The early railways are recognised as a fully cultural artefact, an approach that provides insights into the technological processes and economic development of the early railways, and since nascent railway technology was but one of several emerging, interwoven technologies, the investigation extends beyond the railway proper. These proposals are tested by reference to contemporary evidence relating to the professional engineering enterprises of George and Robert Stephenson, Marc and Isambard Kingdom Brunel and a number of individuals of less renown, whose patented inventive activity met the demands of the emerging railways.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of York > History (York)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.723230
Depositing User: Mr Stephen Murfitt
Date Deposited: 27 Sep 2017 08:20
Last Modified: 24 Jul 2018 15:22
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/18088

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