Against Monopoly

defending the right to innovate

Monopoly corrupts. Absolute monopoly corrupts absolutely.

Copyright Notice: We don't think much of copyright, so you can do what you want with the content on this blog. Of course we are hungry for publicity, so we would be pleased if you avoided plagiarism and gave us credit for what we have written. We encourage you not to impose copyright restrictions on your "derivative" works, but we won't try to stop you. For the legally or statist minded, you can consider yourself subject to a Creative Commons Attribution License.


This is self-explanatory

Dear Professors Boldrin and Levine,

We are writing to you regarding your book, Against Intellectual Monopoly.

We have both enjoyed, and been stimulated by, your book, and are in considerable agreement with your overall thesis that intellectual property protection is not conducive to technological innovation, at least not in the way claimed in standard economics. One of us has found it an invaluable help in teaching and research.

However, we would like to bring to your attention some facts about the invention of the radio, which you discuss in chapter 8 of the book. In it you refer to Hong's work and mention the roles of Lodge, Tesla and Popov in undermining Marconi's claim to be the inventor of the device, but not the role of Jagadis Chunder Bose.

>From the very beginning Marconi was mired in controversy regarding his claim. The question was reconsidered in the early 1990s by Phillips (1993), who concluded that Marconi did not invent the detector that he claimed to have developed. However, Phillips was unable to locate the true inventor of the so-called "Italian navy coherer". The mystery was resolved in a paper by Probir Bandyopandhyay, who provided convincing evidence that the real inventor of this device was Jagadis Chunder Bose, Professor of Physics at Calcutta University (Bandopadhyay, 1998). The device is described in a paper that appeared in the Proceedings of the Royal Society (Bose, 1899). In fact, somewhat earlier, Bose had developed what seems to be the world's first solid state diode detector for radiation and presented his findings at the Royal Society, London, on January 28, 1897. A report of this presentation appeared in the Proceedings of the Royal Society (Bose, 1897).

The centennial of this last paper was celebrated in a special section attached to the special edition of the proceedings of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the invention of the transistor (IEEE, 1998). The papers by Bose, as well as that of Phillips, are reproduced in that publication. A brief summary of these developments appears in Mervis and Bagla (1998).

We find it extraordinary that Hong is apparently unaware of the IEEE publication. Although Hong does cite Phillips's paper, we find that he does so in a somewhat misleading way and makes only cursory references to Bose. In particular, he does not refer to the crucial papers of Bose cited above.

We hope you find these observations useful. We believe that they not only serve to debunk the claims of Marconi's priority, but also to provide another illustration of the fact that inventions do occur without the protection of intellectual property.

Sincerely yours,

Samir Bose Professor Emeritus Department of Physics

Amitava Krishna Dutt Professor of Economics and Political Science Department of Political Science

University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN 46556


Bandyopadhyay, Probir (1998). "Sir J. C. Bose's diode detector received Marconi's first transatlantic wireless signal of December 1901 (The "Italian Navy coherer" scandal revisited), in IEEE (1998).

Bose, Jagadis Chunder (1897). "On the selective conductivity exhibited by certain polarizing substances", Proceedings of the Royal Society, vol. LX, no. 366, 433-36, reprinted in IEEE (1998).

Bose, Jagadis Chunder (1899). "On a self-recovering coherer and the study of cohering action of different metals", Proceedings of the Royal Society, vol. LXV, no, 415, 165-72, reprinted in IEEE (1998).

Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (1998). Proceedings of the IEEE, Special Issue: 50th anniversary of the transistor, including a special issue section: Centennial of semiconductor diode detector, January.

Mervis, Jeffrey and Bagla, Pallava (1998). "Bose credited with key role in Marconi's breakthrough", Science, Vol. 279, p. 476.

Philips, Vivian J. (1993). "The Italian navy coherer affair: a turn of the century scandal", Proceedings of the IEEE, Series A, vol. 140, no. 3, 175-85, reprinted in IEEE (1998).


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