FIGURE 6-1  Age distribution of great inventors and Nobel prize winners. SOURCE: Jones (2010). Reprinted by permission.

of patents tends to be about a decade later than transformational science or great inventions.

Other studies have examined the age of artistic creation, such as for works of fine art (Galenson 2004a and 2004b). There appears to be greater dispersion in the ages of creative works than of scientific achievements. Galenson also distinguishes between conceptual innovations (done at an early age) and experimental creativity (often performed at a later age). But the basic idea about the distinctive role of the early years (from 25 to 45 years of age) emerges from these other studies as well.

Determinants Other Than Age

While age is an important determinant of invention and innovation, it explains very little about actual performance across societies. Other factors, such as education, support institutions, economic and social rewards, and religious institutions, tend to dominate the actual distribution of scientific output.

This can be illustrated by examining the distribution of Nobel prize awards in chemistry and physics over the last century. If we assume that the distribution of awards should be proportional to that of raw talent, and that raw talent should be equally distributed around the world, then we would expect that the number of prize winners should be distributed proportionally to the population (or young population) of different countries.

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