HKS Authors

See citation below for complete author information.

Albert J. Weatherhead III and Richard W. Weatherhead Professor of Public Management, Emeritus


Compared to many of my colleagues, I am more inclined to read academic journals from cover to cover rather than just the one or two papers that are directly related to my areas of research. This has the virtue of exposing me to ideas off my beaten track, which is good for creativity, but at the cost of my often being way behind on the latest issues. The paper’s starting point is an observation from what was probably the world’s first government-sponsored contest and perhaps the best-known one, due to its popularization in Dava Sobel’s 1996 book “Longitude”: the prize offered by the British government in the 1700s to anyone who could solve the vexing problem of determining longitude at sea. The paper notes that Sir Isaac Newton, who served on the board of scientists that reviewed the entries, predicted that the solution would need to be based on astronomical science. However, the eventual winner was a largely self-taught carpenter and clockmaker, John Harrison, who developed a chronometer suitable for the task by coming up with a design that differed from the clockmaking establishment’s typical approach.


Kelman, Steven. "Why Contests Are A Smart Procurement Tool." Federal Computer Week, February 9, 2012.