Dutch-born Professor Joel Mokyr is the 2006 recipient of the prestigious Heineken Prize for History, an awarded by the Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. The Heineken Prizes are awarded every two years to five outstanding international scientists and scholars so one truly needs to be one of the most talented individuals on the planet to have a chance at being selected. Not surprisingly, many Heineken winners have been awarded Nobel Prizes as well.
Professor Mokyr is Professor of Economics and History at Northwestern University in Illinois. Professor Mokyr's work is certainly relevant in terms of helping to predict which societies of the 21st century will be leaders in the 22nd and 23rd century. The Heineken Prize web site describes why.
Why are some societies innovative and others not? That is the key question in the fertile and influential work of Joel Mokyr, who has published on European and world economic history. In his view, knowledge and technology play a crucial role. Starting with his first study of the industrial revolution in the Low Countries, Mokyr pioneered what is now known as 'New Economic History'. He draws from many different disciplines, ranging from demographics to cognitive psychology, and in this way offers relevant insights into the present, for example the origins of the knowledge society. Mokyr has shown that there is an unmistakeable relationship between Europe's Industrial Revolution in the late 18th and 19th centuries and the intellectual movements of the previous centuries. Without that knowledge base, the modern industrial economy would not have evolved. Mokyr also makes clear that if that knowledge base is too narrow, economic development will eventually grind to a halt.