Famous Scots - Adam Smith (1723-1790)

Adam Smith
Son of a customs officer who died before he was born, Adam Smith was raised in Kirkcaldy. Amongst his friends in Kirkcaldy were Robert Adam and his brothers who became famous architects. After attending grammar school there, Smith went to Glasgow University - at the age of 14 - to study maths plus natural and moral philosophy, afterwards going on to study at Oxford for seven years. He returned to Scotland and did some lecturing at Edinburgh University. This was so successful that he was appointed to the Chair of Logic at Glasgow University at the age of 28. He became professor of moral philosophy in the following year.

Following a spell in Paris between 1764 and 1766 (where he met Voltaire and other philosophers) he returned to Kirkcaldy and spent the next ten years writing his great work "An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations" which was published in 1776. This was not only the first "modern" book on economics, it also advocated free trade as the way to increase wealth and as such, it was extremely influential. It was written in a clear, understandable style and had considerable influence on William Pitt the Younger who became Prime Minister in 1784. Smith was elected Lord Rector of Glasgow University in 1787. Much of Smith's later work was burnt after his death, at his request. The only major work to survive was The Theory of Moral Sentiments.

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