Biography of Adam Smith

Adam Smith (baptized in Kirkcaldy, Scotland, 5 June 1723 – Edinburgh, United Kingdom, 17 July 1790). Philosopher, Educator, Political scientist and economist of Scottish origin, considered the pioneer of Political Economy.


His work Research on the Nature and Causes of Wealth of Nations, better known as The Wealth of Nations is the first founding text of that discipline, being considered the Bible of Capitalism, as well as one of the most influential written works of history.

Early life

The exact date of his birth is unknown. Ancient records indicate that Adam Smith was baptized in Kirkcaldy, Scotland, on 5 June 1723. His father, Adam Smith, served as customs director.

His mother, Margaret Douglas, was the daughter of a landowner. However, his father died before Adam was born, being raised by his mother. He received his primary education in Kirkcaldy. At Burgh’s school he studied Mathematics, Latin, History and Writing. At the age of fourteen he entered the University of Glasgow on a scholarship.

University education

In 1740 he began his studies at Balliol College, Oxford. However, the education given at this institution did not meet its expectations, even referring that its teachers had “completely renounced the claim to teach”. He devoted his stay at Oxford to self-training, gaining solid knowledge in Philosophy as well as In European Literature.

Once he graduated, Adam Smith returned home. During 1748 he devoted himself to giving lectures, which made him worthy of a great reputation. In 1750 he met the Scottish philosopher and economist, David Hume, whom he would be a lifelong friend.

Thanks to the fame gained in his lectures and his friendship with Hume, Smith was appointed as professor of Logic in 1751, at the University of Glasgow. A year later he assumed the chair of Moral Philosophy.

The Theory of Moral Feelings

In 1759, he published his first book, entitled The Theory of Moral Feelings, where he argued that human morality is directly related and proportional to the sympathy between the individual and the other members of society.

It also sets out the idea, which he would develop a few years later in The Wealth of Nations, according to which selfish men are guided by an “invisible hand” that leads their actions – even if they do not know – in order to guarantee the interest and gain of the social d in general.

In 1764 he left the University, to devote himself to the particular teaching of the Duke of Buccleuch. For more than two years he traveled with him through France and Switzerland, coming into contact with the philosophers Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Voltaire, Francois Quesnay, Benjamin Franklin and the economist Turgot, of whom he was a contemporary.

His work earned him a lifetime pension, which he took the opportunity to retire to Kirkclady and devote himself to his work.

The Wealth of Nations

After nine years of study and work, in 1776 – the same year after the death of his friend David Hume and of the Independence of the United States – he published Research on the Nature and Causes of Wealth of Nations, considered the first text of political economy of History.

Commonly known for its abbreviation The Wealth of Nations, Smith’s work is made up of five volumes where he sets out his ideas on how a nation should forge an economic system that translates into the accumulation of wealth, being considered the basis ideological logic of the capitalist system.

Adam Smith points out in his work that a country’s wealth cannot be calculated solely on the basis of its gold or silver reserves, but must take into account the gains made by its production systems and business activities, factors that are now known to c gross domestic product.

It also takes up platonic notions about the specialization of work, as a means of obtaining an increase in productivity, noting that if each worker assumes only part of the process, the quantity of products per day would increase considerably.

Similarly, Smith points to the benefit it brings to the economy, that there are wage differences between workers, assigning it the highest for difficult or unwanted trades, thus stimulating their learning and exercise, thus creating the concept that in is now known as Human Capital.

The wealth of nations also raises the exercise of a free market system, with the least amount of restrictions, based on individual interest and managed by “an invisible hand” that would regulate the system by promoting the accumulation of wealth in benefit of the nation and society.

In the light of this approach, the governments of nations should play an administrative role, protecting patents and contracts, in order to incentivize invention and new ideas, by ensuring the protection of copyright. Likewise, Smith believed that the government’s role was to procure public works for the use of the individuals of society, who according to their approach had to pay for their use, by financially giving to the nation.

Final years

In the years that ensued, Adam Smith’s work traveled the world gaining great prestige and becoming a basic text of Political Economy, adopted as an economic guide for some powers such as the United States and England. For his part, its author, Adam Smith became rector of the University of Glasgow in 1787. Three years later, he died at the age of 76, in the city of Edinburgh, on 17 July 1790.

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Biography of Adam Smith
Source: Education  
July 27, 2019


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