City Readers Digital Historic Collections at the New York Society Library
Adam Smith (1723-1790)
Adam Smith (c.16 June 1723 NS (c. 5 June 1723 OS) – 17 July 1790) was a Scottish economist, philosopher and author as well as a moral philosopher, a pioneer of political economy and a key figure during the Scottish Enlightenment era. Smith is best known for two classic works: An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776) and The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759). The former, usually abbreviated as The Wealth of Nations, is considered his magnum opus and the first modern work of economics.
Smith studied social philosophy at the University of Glasgow and at Balliol College, Oxford, where he was one of the first students to benefit from scholarships set up by fellow Scot, John Snell. After graduating, he delivered a successful series of public lectures at Edinburgh, leading him to collaborate with David Hume during the Scottish Enlightenment. Smith obtained a professorship at Glasgow teaching moral philosophy and during this time wrote and published The Theory of Moral Sentiments. In his later life, he took a tutoring position that allowed him to travel throughout Europe, where he met other intellectual leaders of his day.
Smith laid the foundations of classical free market economic theory. The Wealth of Nations was a precursor to the modern academic discipline of economics. In this and other works, he developed the concept of division of labour and expounded upon how rational self-interest and competition can lead to economic prosperity. Smith was controversial in his own day and his general approach and writing style were often satirised by Tory writers in the moralising tradition of William Hogarth and Jonathan Swift. In 2005, The Wealth of Nations was named among the 100 Best Scottish Books of all time. The minor planet 12838 Adamsmith was named in his memory.