Adam Smith, a Scottish intellectual; heavyweight of the 18th century whose ideas endure today.
Scots-born Adam Smith was a great thinker of the 18th.century who made a lasting contribution to the social science of economics across the world. Here is a summary of Smith’s life:
- Born 1723 in Kirkcaldy, about 35 miles north of Edinburgh on Scotland’s east coast. His father having died before Smith was born.
- Educated locally and then attended Glasgow University at age 14. (Not unusual in those days.)
- At University was taught by Francis Hutcheson, a ‘father’ of the Scottish Enlightenment. (The Enlightenment refers to a period of new thinking entailing many intellectual and scientific accomplishments.)
- Received a scholarship and transferred to Oxford University in England where he studied for 6 years. Here Smith became fluent in standard English (as opposed to Scots English).
- Upon return to Scotland gave public lectures and moved in learned circles which included the philosopher, David Hume.
- In 1750 was appointed professor of logic at Glasgow University to which was added the chair of moral philosophy one year later.
- In 1759 published The Theory of Moral Sentiments (exploring how individuals make decisions).
- In 1764 Smith resigned his academic posts for that of roll of tutor to the young Duke of Buccleuch who he accompanied on a grand Tour of Europe for three years.
- On return to Scotland, Smith stayed with his mother at Kirkcaldy and commenced work on his seminal publication An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations which was published in 1776. This turned conventional economic practice of the day on its head and has endured ever since with free trade and minimal governmental interference deemed pivotal to wealth creation. However, Smith lobbied against cartels and monopolies but was receptive to taxation to fund education and security.
- Smith died in 1790 age 67, a respectable age for those days. He is buried in Canongate Kirkyard, Edinburgh.
Adam Smith's headstone at Canongate Kirk, Edinburgh