Adam Smith FRSA
(16 June 1723 NS (5 June 1723 OS)
– 17 July 1790) was a Scottish economist, philosopher, and author
. He was well known for being a moral philosopher, a pioneer of political economy
, and was a key figure during the Scottish Enlightenment era. He is best known for 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, 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 he 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.