A philosopher of the Scottish Enlightenment, Adam Smith’s magnum opus, The Wealth of Nations, pioneered modern economics and laid the foundations of free market capitalism.
Below is an excerpt from a biography of Adam Smith included with our books.
The birth date of Smith’s birth was recorded on 5 June 1723 at Kirkcaldy, Scotland. Smith attended the Burgh School of Kirkcaldy from 1729 to 1737. While he was there, Smith studied Latin, mathematics, history, and writing. His father, Adam Smith Senior, was a lawyer, civil servant, and widower who married Margaret Douglas in 1720 and died two months after Smith was born.
Smith studied at the University of Glasgow when he was fourteen and studied philosophy under Francis Hutcheson. Francis Hutcheson at Glasgow was Smith’s mentor. In 1740, Smith left Glasgow and attended Balliol College, Oxford. He left Oxford University in 1746.
Smith began teaching at University of Edinburgh in 1748. He first expounded his economic philosophy of the obvious and simple system of natural liberty. In 1750, he met the philosopher David Hume and they shared closer intellectual and personal bonds than with other important figures.
In 1751, Smith was awarded a professorship at Glasgow University teaching logic courses. In 1752 Smith was elected as a member of the Philosophical Society of Edinburgh. He worked as an academic for the next thirteen years at Glasgow University, publishing The Theory of Moral Sentiments in 1759.
In 1762, the University of Glasgow awarded Smith the title of Doctor of Laws. At the end of 1763, he obtained an offer from Charles Townshend to tutor his stepson, Henry Scott, the young Duke of Buccleuch. Smith then resigned from his professorship to take the tutoring position.
In 1766, Henry Scott’s younger brother died in Paris. Shortly after that, Smith ended his tutor job. Smith returned home that year to Kirkcaldy, and he devoted much of the next ten years to complete The Wealth of Nations.
In May 1773, Smith was elected fellow of the Royal Society of London. In 1775 he was elected a member of the Literary Club. The Wealth of Nations was published in 1776.
In 1778, Smith was appointed to a post as commissioner of customs in Scotland and went to live with his mother in Panmure House in Edinburgh’s Canongate.
In 1783, he became one of the founding members of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. From 1787 to 1789 he occupied the honorary position of Lord Rector of the University of Glasgow. He died in the northern wing of Panmure House in Edinburgh on 17 July 1790.
Adam Smith was buried in the Canongate Kirkyard. On his death bed, Smith expressed disappointment that he had not achieved more.
Last updated: 07/08/2020
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Last updated: 07/08/2020
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