In Memory

Ken Sokoloff

Ken Sokoloff

Kenneth Sokoloff, 54, Economist, Is Dead

By Julie Creswell

May 24, 2007

Kenneth L. Sokoloff, an economic historian who was a leading expert on the role the United States patent system played in technological and productivity advances in the 19th century, died on Monday in Los Angeles. He was 54.

The cause was liver cancer, said his father, Dr. Louis Sokoloff.

Mr. Sokoloff, an economics professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, found that in the early age of industrialization, the American patent system was uniquely structured to encourage technological advances by ordinary people. As a result, the country’s productivity grew significantly. The vibrant market for patented technology in the late 19th century created a group of specialized inventors, like Thomas Edison, who generated a vast number of technological advances, Mr. Sokoloff said.

In the 20th century, as capital markets changed and financing became more difficult for individuals to obtain, large companies increasingly took over the role of generating new technologies.

Mr. Sokoloff found that the present-day environment had reverted to the 19th- century situation, with individuals and small companies once again generating new technologies that they then sell to larger firms, said Naomi R. Lamoreaux, a professor of economics and history at U.C.L.A. who was co-author of several studies with Mr. Sokoloff.

In one of his last papers, which he wrote with Ms. Lamoreaux and which is to be presented at a conference in early June, Mr. Sokoloff explored the rise and fall of Cleveland, once comparable to Silicon Valley.

Mr. Sokoloff also spent years studying the comparative economic histories of Latin America and the United States.

Kenneth Lee Sokoloff was born in Philadelphia. He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1974 and his doctorate from Harvard in 1982.

He joined the U.C.L.A. faculty in 1980.

In addition to his father, Mr. Sokoloff is survived by his sister, Ann Sokoloff of Kensington, Md.


07/17/20 07:17 AM #1     EDIT     DELETE

Jeff Hamilton

go to bottom 
  Post Comment

07/19/20 11:32 AM #1    

Jeff Hamilton

I always admired Ken for his integrity, conviction, intelligence and strength. He, Sara Hanstein, Sharon Markus, and I made up a foursome on Prom night at the Eiffel Tower. I remember him heading off to walk home in the wee hours of the morning, after the Metro had stopped running. It was a fair distance, but that didn't faze him, even though he walked with difficulty, sometimes using a cane.

Fast forward several years. I was in the reading room in the humanities library at Caltech (more like a humanities room) where I was in graduate school. I look up to see Ken walking in among a group of people there for a meeting. He was already on the faculty at UCLA, and it was great to reconnect.

12/13/20 01:39 PM #2    

Marc Desoer

Ken and I connected immediately in Wiegardt's US History class. We were both only at ASP for that one year, 1968-1969. Both of us wanted to become Economists. At ASP, i lived with Ken and his family for the second half of the year after my family moved to Chile. We saw each other every year of his life after that, in Maryland, at U Penn, at Berkeley. We both almost ended up at UChicago for Phd's in Economics after we were both admitted. Ken shifted to Harvard, i remained at Berkeley. I have so many wonderful memories of Ken over the years. One of my closest friends, a classy, intelligent, honest person. I learned so much from him. Attending a memorial session honoring him at the Amercan Economic Association annual meeting, it was amazing to see so many famous economists extoll his academic achievements.

go to top 
  Post Comment