Adam Smith was born on June 5th, 1723, in Kirkcaldy, a trading center in Scotland. Smith's birthplace gave him exposure to a number of trades, including fishing, mining, iron-working, and trade. Smith also witnessed the growing popularity of foreign commodities imported from the colonies, such as tobacco and cotton, giving him further material for thought.
Smith did well at school and won a scholarship in 1740 to study at the Balliol College of Oxford. He had many criticisms of the school, some of which he addresses in The Wealth of Nations -- for instance, he discusses how incentives must be created for teachers by their students. Oxford professors were paid not by student fees, but from a large endowment, and Smith perceived a disconnect between the content of their lessons and their teaching style and the needs of their students.
Smith began his intellectual career in 1748, when he gave a series of public lectures at the University of Edinburgh in English and the philosophy of law. These lectures primarily treated matters of opulence, belles-lettres, and rhetoric. In 1751, he assumed a post at the University of Glasgow, as a professor of logic. It was this lecturing that provided the basis for much of Smith's later work.
In 1759, Smith was hired as a tutor for the son of a wealthy statesman, and, with his pupil, began extensive travels of Europe. He met with David Hume in Paris, and went on to visit the South of France and Geneva. He used these opportunities to reflect on the interaction of culture, government, commerce, and economics, and to analyze various policy approaches and their effectiveness. Smith returned to London in 1766.
After educating his pupil, Smith retired to Kirkcaldy, the city of his birth, where he began his work on The Wealth of Nations, which he devoted himself to even at the expense of his health. During a long stay in London from 1773 to 1776, Smith enjoyed the company of a host of other great thinkers, including Edmund Burke, Boswell, and Sir Joshua Reynolds. Smith published The Wealth of Nations in 1776, which was translated into many languages shortly after its publication. Though the anti-mercantilism manifesto was met with generally positive sentiment, British Parliament and the British public resisted free trade -- it was not nationally adopted until 1906, over a century after Smith's original treatise.
Smith was appointed to be the Commissioner of Customs in 1778, at which time he returned to Edinburgh to live with his mother. This position endowed Smith with real political power and placed him in a position to put many of his ideas into action. He also became an important voice on other issues, including trade restrictions on Ireland. It was in 1790, during his time as Commissioner, that Smith passed away in his home after he grew exhausted during a particularly lively discussion with his intellectual circle of friends and acquaintances.
Adam Smith was born in Kirkaldy (the country of Fife, Edinburg, Scotland) in 1723. Smith’s mother, Margaret, had come originally from a family of landowners. The father of Adam Smith passed away several months before his son was born.
At the age of fourteen Adam Smith started a course of moral philosophy at the University of Glasgow. In 1737 Smith was greatly influenced by Francis Hutcheson’s philosophy and his life in Glasgow, which at the time was known as a heart of “Scottish Enlightenment“.
In 1740 Adam Smith graduated and received “Snell Exhibition” scholarship, which has opened the door to the Oxford University’s Balliol College.
At Oxford Smith was surrounded by the displeasure of the authorities of the university because of his growing interest in the David Hume’s philosophical works. David Hume was the so-called son of the “Scottish Enlightenment” and the author of “A Treatise of Human Nature”, which promoted philosophy of “atheism”. Being dissatisfied by the teaching standards of Oxford, Smith returned home in 1746.
While staying at home in 1751, Adam Smith rendered public lectures that gave him an opportunity to become the Professor of Logic at the University of Glasgow. In 1752 he successfully sat on a chair of Professor of Moral Philosophy at the Glasgow University.
Though Adam Smith gained a reputation of a highly-talented and interesting lecturer, he preferred to spend most of his time with book rather than taking part in social situations. Having an opportunity to get acquainted with the most influential individuals in business and intellectual area, Adam Smith was still under the “Scottish Enlighten” influence.
In 1759, Adam Smith’s major work “Theory of Moral Sentiments” hooked great attention far beyond Great Britain, providing Smith with a reputation of a highly intellectual individual.
Having spent some time in the continental Europe, Smith had some time to meet Samuel Johnson, Edmund Burke and Edward Gibbon. His brand-new well-regarded ideas and professional reputation resulted in his being chosen as a Royal Society member (prestigious intellectual union).
With a reputation of an educated and experienced tutor to the Duke of Bucchleuch Smith gained an annuity. Having returned to Scotland, Adam Smith spent most of his time with his mother in Kirkcaldy and dedicated his studies to the “An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations”, which was published in 1776.
Adam Smith became the Edinburg University rector in 1777 and in 1778 he became the Scotland commissioner of customs.
The life of Adam Smith ended in 1790, on July 17th, in Scottish capital.
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About Steven Arndt
Steven Arndt is a passionate writer, educator and a former History teacher. He tends to reconsider the role of modern education in our society and watches with awe the freedom the youth now has.