Alexander Alasdair McCall Smith (also known as McCall-Smith) was born in the British colony of Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) in 1948. As a child he was educated in Bulawayo, and as a young man he earned his law degree from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. Following his graduation, he returned to Africa, accepting a position at the University of Botswana. There he helped develop a program of study in law and assisted in the writing of Botswana’s inaugural criminal code. That McCall Smith returns to these familiar and beloved locales in his mystery series is a testament to their impact on his development as a man of both law and letters.
In the late 1970’s, McCall Smith began coauthoring nonfictional books on medical law and ethics. His first solo ventures in fiction were stories for children published in the 1980’s. Although he continues to publish works of nonfiction and children’s literature, the 1998 debut of The Number One Ladies’ Detective Agency and subsequent entries in the series led to his success as a writer of mysteries. Two additional mystery series have followed in its wake: the Sunday Philosophy Club and the Scotland Street series. A fourth, the von Igelfeld series, features the antics of a German professor of linguistics. The von Igelfeld books are not mysteries in the vein of his other series but rather broad comic novels.
As an academic, McCall Smith held the post of professor of medical law at the University of Edinburgh and was, on two occasions, a visiting professor at Southern Methodist University School of Law in Dallas. He is retired from classroom teaching and is now professor emeritus of the School of Law at the University of Edinburgh. He served with distinction as vice chair of the Human Genetics Commission of the United Kingdom, as chair of the Committee for British Medical Ethics, and as a member of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization International Bioethics Commission. Increasing obligations as an author, including international book tours, forced his withdrawal from these committees, but he remains supportive of their work.