Adam Smith Philosopher

Adam Smith

Yet another Scot from Fife, Adam Smith was an unquestioned genius. He was born in Kirkcaldy, five months after his father had died. Went to Glasgow University aged 14, for a diet of mathematics, physics and philosophy. He became Professor of Logic at this University in 1751, then Professor of Moral Philosophy the next year, a post he held for 12 years.

In 1764, he resigned in mid-session, refunding his tuition fees, despite protests from his students that he had already given more than enough value. He toured the Continent as a tutor to the Duke of Buccleuth, returning home to his mother in Kirkcaldy. There he remained for 10 years (he never married), comfortable with a life pension equivalent to a professional salary (he was a Fifer, remember!)

His ten years in Kirkcaldy saw the publication in 1776 of An Enquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, required reading still for students of political economy and others. His other writings are equally impressive and his moral philosophy well worthy of long consideration; his prescription for national wealth combined individual free enterprise with cooperation, specialisation and the division of labour that went with it. He foresaw dangers in free enterprise and envisaged some degree of state control.

He moved to Edinburgh in 1788, as Commissioner of Customs, living with his mother in the Canongate. Latterly he asked his friends James Hutton and Joseph Black to burn many of his papers, leaving a selected list for posthumous publication as Essays on Philosophical Subjects (1795). He died in Edinburgh, on 17 July 1790.