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Making Jet Engines in World War IIBritain, Germany, and the United States$
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Hermione Giffard

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780226388595

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226388625.001.0001

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Inventive Institutions

Inventive Institutions

(p.149) Chapter Three Inventive Institutions
Making Jet Engines in World War II

Hermione Giffard

University of Chicago Press

This chapter proposes that we can better understand the dynamics of invention in the twentieth-century by studying inventive institutions (institutions that specialize in invention) instead of independent inventors. It offers a new account of the two most well-known institutions in the history of the jet engine: Power Jets and the Heinkel Aircraft Company. Each is associated with a first jet flight, yet neither managed to produce jet engines – like the firms discussed in the last chapter. These two companies are studied in order to provide insight into the work of Frank Whittle and Hans von Ohain, the most prominent individuals known for inventing the jet engine. The chapter argues that the institutional instability of the two companies where these men worked resulted in their work having little long-term impact on wider technical practice. Understanding invention as a corporate capability challenges the assumption of the literature that production is the primary object of companies investing in technical change. This chapter shows why this account mentions the two most well known figures only in its second half of the book.

Keywords:   jet engine, invention, inventive institution, Frank Whittle, Otto von Ohain, Power Jets, Heinkel Aircraft Company

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