Tom Nicholas is Willaim J. Abernathy Professor of Business Administration in the Entrepreneurial Management Group of Harvard Business School. He holds a doctorate in Economic History from Oxford University. Prior to joining HBS, he taught Technology Strategy at MIT's Sloan School of Management and technology and finance courses at the London School of Economics. He was also an economics consultant in San Francisco where he performed economic analysis for environmental and antitrust litigation including Sun Microsystems v. Microsoft. At HBS he has taught the first year course, The Entrepreneurial Manager, and he currently teaches in Executive Education programs on entrepreneurship and intellectual property as well as two second year elective courses: The Coming of Managerial Capitalism, which examines entrepreneurship, innovation and business development in the United States over the past 230 years; and Venture Capital in Historical Perspective (with Felda Hardymon), which focuses on the changing organizational structure of the venture capital industry and its impact on entrepreneurship and innovation over time. He has received the Faculty Teaching Award in both the Required Curriculum and the Elective Curriculum and the Charles M. Williams Award for teaching excellence.
His research focuses on the historical foundations of entrepreneurship and wealth accumulation in Europe, and on the organizational structure and incentives for innovation in late nineteenth and early twentieth century America, Britain and Japan. His work shows how the foundations of new technology formation across countries can only be understood by examining the coexistence of large corporations, formal R&D establishments and independent inventors operating outside the boundaries of firms. It also highlights that alternative mechanisms to patents—specifically prizes—can exert a powerful influence on the rate and direction of technological change. He has also examined the links between finance and innovation during the Great Depression and constructed historical real estate price indices for Manhattan from the 1890s through to the 1930s in order to understand the relationship between real estate and stock market cycles.