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On the Origin of the Cobb-Douglas Production Function

Journal article
Authors Bo Sandelin
Published in Economy and History
Volume XIX
Issue 2
Pages 117-123
ISSN 0070-8852
Publication year 1976
Published at Department of Economics
Pages 117-123
Language en
Subject categories Economics, History of science


In studies on the Cobb-Douglas production function, there has sometimes been a footnote referring to its first use in economic theory. Two different sources seem to be prevailing in these references. One is Wicksteed's Coordination of the Laws of Distribution of 1894, the other is Wicksell's Lectures of 1901 (or sometimes, as in Velupillai's article in the 1973 issue of this journal, one of his essays in the Ekonomisk Tidskrift of 1900). It will be argued that the fust source is wholly false and is due to a mistake by Douglas himself. Concerning Wicksell, we will show that he implicitly used it in a linearly homogeneous form with labor and capital as arguments, even as early as 1895.

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