Adam Smith

Adam Smith

Adam Smith (June 5, 1723 – July 17, 1790) was a Scottish economist, philosopher, and moralist, one of the key figures of the Scottish Enlightenment. Known as the "Father of Economics" or "The Father of Capitalism", Smith wrote two classic works, The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759) and An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776). The latter, often abbreviated as The Wealth of Nations, is considered his magnum opus and the first modern work that treats economics as a comprehensive system and as an academic discipline.

Early Life and Education

Adam Smith was born in Kirkcaldy, Fife, Scotland, on June 5, 1723. His father, Adam Smith Sr., was a successful comptroller of customs in Kirkcaldy. His mother, Margaret Douglas, died when he was only one year old.

Smith was educated at the Burgh School of Kirkcaldy and the University of Glasgow, where he studied moral philosophy under Francis Hutcheson. In 1740, he was awarded a Snell Exhibition to study at Balliol College, Oxford. However, he was unhappy at Oxford and returned to Scotland after four years.


In 1748, Smith was appointed to the chair of moral philosophy at the University of Glasgow. He held this position for 13 years, during which time he wrote his first book, The Theory of Moral Sentiments. The book was published in 1759 and was a critical and commercial success.

In 1764, Smith resigned from his position at the University of Glasgow to travel with his friend and patron, the Duke of Buccleuch. They spent two years traveling through France, Switzerland, and Italy. During this time, Smith met many of the leading philosophers and economists of the time, including Voltaire, David Hume, and François Quesnay.

In 1767, Smith returned to Scotland and began work on his most famous book, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. The book was published in 1776 and was an immediate success. It is considered one of the most important works of economics ever written.

In 1778, Smith was appointed to the position of commissioner of customs for Scotland. He held this position until his death in 1790.

Economic Theories

Smith's most famous economic theories include:

  • The invisible hand: Smith argued that the actions of individuals who are motivated by self-interest can lead to an increase in overall economic well-being. He called this the "invisible hand."
  • The division of labor: Smith argued that the division of labor can lead to increased productivity.
  • Free trade: Smith argued that free trade is beneficial to all countries.
  • Laissez-faire: Smith argued that the government should play a limited role in the economy.


Adam Smith is considered one of the most important figures in the history of economics. His work has had a profound impact on economic thought and policy. His ideas about the invisible hand, the division of labor, free trade, and laissez-faire are still debated today.

Some of Smith's most famous quotes include:

  • "Man is a selfish creature."
  • "It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest."
  • "All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way."
  • "What is seen and done in the street corner may affect the palace. When the sovereign or the council is once corrupted, all the other ills will follow of course."
  • "The only way to escape fear is to face it."
Found 1 books in total
An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations
An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (commonly referred to...
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