Adam Smith Additional Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Adam Smith studied at the University of Glasgow, where he came under the influence of the famous professor of moral philosophy Francis Hutcheson (1694-1746). Smith then studied at Balliol College, Oxford, for six years before returning to Scotland to lecture in rhetoric and polite literature at the University of Edinburgh. His lectures were popular and, unlike those of many of his contemporaries, attracted listeners from the town as well as from the university.

Smith returned to the University of Glasgow in 1751 as professor of logic, and that same year he was appointed to the chair in moral philosophy. At this time Smith was strongly under the influence of his close friend the historian and philosopher David Hume (1711-1776) and shared in a milder form much of Hume’s skepticism. Smith never took holy orders, for example, an unusual circumstance for a professor of moral philosophy in Scotland at that time. In 1759 Smith published The Theory of Moral Sentiments, in which he claimed that sympathy or feeling was the foundation for all moral sentiments or judgments. He felt that evil or wrongdoing was punished by remorse in the individual and that certainly remorse was the most painful of the human sentiments. His position was not very far from that of later philosophers who claim that ethical principles are merely statements of human emotions.

Even at this early date Smith was highly interested in economics. He often talked of trade and political economy in his lectures, and he urged both students and young businessmen from the growing commercial city and port of Glasgow to attend his lectures. Many criticized him, and one of his colleagues later sneered that “he had converted the chair of moral philosophy into a professorship of trade and finance.”


(The entire section is 737 words.)


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Brown, Maurice. Adam Smith’s Economics: Its Place in the Development of Economic Thought. New York: Routledge, 1992. Scholarly but approachable work sets forth the economic and historical contexts of Smith’s theories.

Brown, Vivienne. Adam Smith’s Discourse: Canonicity, Commerce, and Conscience. New York: Routledge, 1994. Discusses inconsistency between The Wealth of Nations and Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments.

Campbell, R. Hutchinson, and Andrew S. Skinner. Adam Smith. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1985. This volume not only provides biographical information on the...

(The entire section is 639 words.)


(Survey of World Philosophers)

Article abstract: Smith was one of the major luminaries of the eighteenth century Scottish Enlightenment. His The Wealth of Nations became the bible of nineteenth century liberals, and twentieth century conservatives were similarly animated by his vision of the beneficent results of the free marketplace. Economists, whatever their personal ideologies, continue to pay homage to Smith for his contribution to the study of economic development.

Early Life

Adam Smith was born in Kirkcaldy, a fishing and mining town near Edinburgh. His exact date of birth is unknown, although records show that he was baptized on June 5, 1723. His father, also named Adam, had died before his son’s birth....

(The entire section is 2599 words.)


(Critical Survey of Ethics and Literature)

Author Profile

Born in Calvinist Scotland, bereft by the early death of his father, and extremely precocious, Adam Smith spent his life trying to reconcile Providence with the needs of the individual and the greater society. He became professor of moral philosophy at the University of Glasgow in 1752, and it was there that he completed his first important work.

The Theory of Moral Sentiments

During Smith’s time, moral philosophy embraced a series of disciplines in what today would be considered the humanities and the social sciences. At that time, philosophers of the Enlightenment were developing the discrete social sciences, especially psychology and economics.


(The entire section is 1990 words.)