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A Profile of Adam Smith

Updated on April 24, 2015

Adam Smith was born 1723 Kirkcaldy, Scotland, named after his father Adam Smith who died after his son was born, his mother Margret Douglas was the daughter of a wealthy landowner. Smith went to Burgh School to study Latin, Mathematics, History and Writing.


At the very young of fourteen Smith applied and studied the University of Glasgow to read Philosophy and Economics. While he was studying there Francis Hutcheson a lecturer in Philosophy and economics influenced the youngster. Smith attributed much of his influences to Hutcheson whose teachings inspired Smith to develop his own Philosophical and Economic teachings. Winning a scholarship to Oxford University after graduating from Glasgow in 1740, Smith travelled all the way to Oxford on horseback. Studying at Oxford was to a large degree self-taught in that time Smith was able to build on his own knowledge by developing a strong understanding of classical and modern Philosophy. At the age of twenty-seven Smith returned home after studying six years at Oxford University.

Upon his return, Smith gave a series of lectures in Edinburgh this lead to his first job as a Professor of Logic at the University of Glasgow. A year later in 1752 he was appointed Professor of Moral Philosophy at the University, and in 1759, his first important book The Theory of the Moral Sentiments was published. The book outlines his own thoughts on philosophy and ethics including references to Hutcheson his former lecturer.

Five years later in 1764 his resigned from the university to become a tutor to the young Duke of Buccleuch, whom he travelled abroad with. While travelling he was able to share his views with intellectual Philosophers including the Physiocrats a French school of Economists. On returning to England two years later, he wrote his second book on Political Economy, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. After its publication in 1776 his international reputation was immediately earned. In his book, he argues that wealth does not consist of money, but in the goods men use and their skill in getting or making it. A year after the book in 1777 Smith was prompted to Lord Rector of Edinburgh University. Then in 1778 Smith Accepted a well-paid position as Commissioner of Customs in Edinburgh. At the age of sixty-seven Smith died on the 17 June 1790, he was buried in Canongate Churchyard in Edinburgh.

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