Adam Smith

Biography of Adam Smith

Adam Smith
Adam Smith

The moral philosopher and political economist Adam Smith (1723?-1790) was appointed Professor of Logic at the University in 1751. He became Professor of Moral Philosophy the following year and held the chair until 1764. Smith served as Dean of Faculties and as the library's Quaestor (an official in charge of accounts), and he was elected to serve as Rector from 1787 to 1789. The University has a building, a library, a chair and a research foundation named in his honour.

Born in Kirkcaldy, Smith matriculated to study at the University in 1737 and was profoundly impressed by the teaching of the Professor of Moral Philosophy, Francis Hutcheson. He went to Balliol College, Oxford as a Snell Exhibitioner in 1740, returning to Scotland in 1746. He established his reputation as a teacher and writer at the University (Theory of Moral Sentiments was published in 1759, based on his lectures on Ethics), but left in 1764 to accompany the young Duke of Buccleuch on a continental tour. He returned three years later to live in Kirkcaldy, where he worked on his classic study An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, published in 1776. In 1778 he was appointed a Commissioner of Customs in Edinburgh.

During his time in Glasgow, Smith lived in Professors' Court off High Street with his mother and his cousin. He was a sociable man who cultivated the opinions of local merchants as well as those of intellectuals. In 1787, he remembered his years as a professor at the University as "by far the happiest and most honourable" in his life.

For more information on the global significance of Adam Smith's work see Adam Smith in 10 Minutes by Professor Berry, Professor of Political Theory.


Adam Smith
Political Economist

Born 1723.
Died 17 July 1790.
GU Degree: LLD, 1762;
University Link: Alumnus, Dean of Faculties, Honorary Graduate, Professor, Rector
Occupation categories: moral philosophers; political economists; public servants
NNAF Reference: GB/NNAF/P26418
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Record last updated: 23rd Jun 2015

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Adam Smith is listed on the University of Glasgow World Changing website.

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