Paul Allan David (May 24, 1935 – January 23, 2023) was an American academic economist, noted for his work on the economics of scientific progress and technical change. He was also well-known for his work in American economic history and in demographic economics.[4]

Paul A. David
Paul David in 2014
David in 2014
Paul Allan David

(1935-05-24)May 24, 1935
New York City, New York, U.S.
DiedJanuary 23, 2023(2023-01-23) (aged 87)
OccupationEconomics professor
Years active1961–2022
Known forPath dependence
TitleProfessor of Economics (Emeritus) & Senior Fellow of SIEPR, Stanford University
Academic background
Alma materHarvard University (AB, PhD)[1]
University of Cambridge
Academic work
InstitutionsHarvard University (1958–1960)
Stanford University (1961–2022)
University of Oxford (1993–2022)
UNU-MERIT (1993–2022)[1][2]
Doctoral studentsWarren Whatley
Leonard Carlson[3]
Charles W. Calomiris[3]
Ashish Arora[3]

Early life and education


David was born into a Jewish family in New York on May 24, 1935. His father was a history professor at Columbia University.[5] He enrolled at Harvard University specializing in chemistry. However, he switched to studying economics under economist Alexander Gerschenkron. He graduated from Harvard in 1956.[5]

He attended the University of Cambridge for two years, before returning to Harvard. It is noted that he started his dissertation on the economic history of Chicago. However, he did not turn it in. He received a Ph.D. from Harvard in 1973.[5]



David started his academic career at Stanford University in 1961. There he focused on studying economic change and innovation.[5]

David was a president of the Economic History Association, a fellow of the Econometric Society,[6] a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences,[7] a fellow of the British Academy,[8] a fellow of the Oxford Internet Institute and All Souls College, Oxford, a member of the American Philosophical Society,[9] a professor emeritus and senior fellow of Stanford University's Institute for Economic Policy Research, and professorial fellow at the UNU-MERIT.[10][11][12]

Notable works


David's work focused on the history of technological change and its economic impact. He wrote several papers and books on this topic, including "Clio and the Economics of QWERTY" (1985), "The Dynamo and the Computer: An Historical Perspective on the Modern Productivity Paradox" (1990), and Path Dependence, Its Critics and the Quest for Historical Economics (1997).[13][14][15] He also made important contributions to our understanding of the economics of intellectual property, the history of telecommunications, and the economics of innovation.[16][5] His studies also covered disparate topics including nuclear power plants, migration, slavery, birth control, and government interventions in the economy.[5]

In 2006, Edward Elgar published a festschrift called New Frontiers in the Economics of Innovation and New Technology: Essays in Honour of Paul A. David.[17]

Personal life and death


David was married to Sheila Ryan Johansson-David, a historian. The couple had two children. An earlier marriage to Janet M. Williamson in 1958 had ended in a divorce. He had two children from this earlier marriage.[16]

David died on January 23, 2023, at age 87.[18][5]

Academic honors

  • Fellow of the International Econometrics Society (1975)[16]
  • Pitt Professor of American History and Institutions at the University of Cambridge[16]
  • Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1979)[16]
  • Vice-president and president of the Economic History Association (1988–1989)[16]
  • Marshall Lecturer at the University of Cambridge[19]
  • President of the Economic History Association[16]



See also

  • QWERTY—About which David wrote


  1. ^ a b "Professor Paul David | All Souls College".
  2. ^ [self-published source]
  3. ^ a b c "RePEc Genealogy page for Paul A. David".
  4. ^ "Paul A. David | SIEPR". Retrieved April 23, 2019.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Hagerty, James R. (February 2, 2023). "Economist Paul A. David Looked Back to See Forward". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved February 8, 2023.
  6. ^ "pad_37491". The Econometric Society. Retrieved September 21, 2021.
  7. ^ "Paul A. David". American Academy of Arts & Sciences. Retrieved September 21, 2021.
  8. ^ "Professor Paul David FBA". The British Academy. Retrieved September 21, 2021.
  9. ^ "APS Member History". Retrieved September 21, 2021.
  10. ^ Stanford University: Paul A. David's page (Accessed June 2016)
  11. ^ UNU-MERIT (United Nations University (UNU) and Maastricht University (UM)): Paul A. David's page (Accessed Nov 2011)
  12. ^ "Oxford University, Department of Economics | Paul David". Archived from the original on January 29, 2012. Retrieved November 2, 2011. University of Oxford: Department of Economics: Paul A. David's page (Accessed Nov 2011)
  13. ^ David, Paul A. (1985). "Clio and the Economics of QWERTY". The American Economic Review. 75 (2): 332–337. ISSN 0002-8282. JSTOR 1805621.
  14. ^ David, Paul A. (June 26, 2007). Path Dependence, its Critics, and the Quest for 'Historical Economics'. Edward Elgar Publishing. ISBN 978-1-84720-703-6.
  15. ^ David, Paul A. (1990). "The Dynamo and the Computer: An Historical Perspective on the Modern Productivity Paradox". The American Economic Review. 80 (2): 355–361. ISSN 0002-8282. JSTOR 2006600.
  16. ^ a b c d e f g "Professor Paul David died at the age of 87 | Department of Economics". January 27, 2023. Retrieved February 8, 2023.
  17. ^ Antonelli, Cristiano; Foray, Dominique; Hall, Bronwyn H.; Steinmueller, W. Edward; Bessen, James (2006). New Frontiers in the Economics of Innovation and New Technology: Essays in Honour of Paul A. David. Edward Elgar. ISBN 1-84376-631-0.
  18. ^ "Professor Paul David died at the age of 87 | Department of Economics". January 27, 2023.
  19. ^ Administrator (January 11, 2017). "The Marshall Lectures - Past Lectures". Retrieved February 8, 2023.