william nordhaus: the historic cost of light

I recently read Steven Johnson’s fun new book “How We Got to Now: Six Innovations that Changed the World“.  Of course, Johnson claims one of those six critical innovations is artificial light.  Johnson references a very interesting study from Yale economics professor William Nordhaus:  In 1994, Nordhaus studied the historic pricing of artificial light across the eons, as a way to normalize the buying power of a worker’s wage throughout history.  In his paper “Do Real-Output and Real-Wage Measures Capture Reality?  The History of Lighting Suggests Not“, he created a fascinating table of historic light pricing:

William Nordhaus - price of light - table

Has anyone updated this to current LED pricing/Haitz’s law?

Here is the original link to the Yale document.  And here is a copy of the full PDF: William Nordhaus – The Cost of Light Lit-Oil-Lamp-Ancient-Hebrew

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About Brad Koerner

Venture Manager - Luminous Patterns Philips Lighting
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