Adam Smith, 1723 - 1790

portrait of Adam Smith
Engraving from 1787 portrait by James Tassie
Adam Smith signature

Born: baptized 16 June 1723 (O. S. 5 June), Kirkcaldy, Fife, Scotland, UK
Died: 14 July 1790, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK

Smith's father, also named Adam Smith, died six months before Smith was born. He was abducted by gypsies when he was four but quickly reunited with his mother. He attended the Burgh School of Kirkcaldy and entered the University of Glasgow at fourteen to study moral philosophy. He was given the Snell Exhibition, a scholarship for Glasgow students to study at Balliol College, Oxford, an experience that was productive only in terms of access to the Oxford library. He returned to Edinburgh and delivered a series of lectures, meeting David Hume with whom he became close friends. In 1751 he was given a professorship at Glasgow University, teaching logic for a year and becoming the head of Moral Philosophy the next year when the previous professor died. After publication of The Theory of Moral Sentiments in 1959, students left other schools to come to Glasgow to take his classes. The university gave him the Doctor of Laws degree in 1762, but the following year he accepted a position tutoring the young Duke of Buccleuch for about four years, a period spent mostly in Europe. A life pension of 300 pounds was enough for him to devote his time to The Wealth of Nations which was published in 1776. Considered the first book of economics, he argued that a combination of self interest and open trading provided the best results for all members of the community, introduced the concept of "the invisible hand", and promoted the concept of division of labor or specialization. On that point he argued that ten persons each making pins from start to finish could make 20 pins each per day, while if they divided the eighteen components steps and each specialized, they could together make 48,000 pins each day, a 240-fold increase. From 1778 Smith was a commissioner of customs, in 1783 he was one of the founding members of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, and he was given the honorary position of Lord Rector of the University of Glasgow. He died after a painful but unknown illness, disappointed that he had not accomplished more.

Biography from Wikipedia and Library of Economics and Liberty

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