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.
Smith's most famous economic theories include:
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: