Life of Adam Smith

Course Outline

Life of Adam Smith

Instructor: Tyler Cowen, George Mason University

Adam Smith’s life began in 1723 in Kirkcaldy, Scotland. Although his father passed away before he was born, friends of his father exposed Smith to Scottish Enlightenment ideas from a young age. He studied at the University of Glasgow and at Oxford University, and then became a popular lecturer at the University of Edinburgh. During this time, Smith formed a close friendship with David Hume, with whom he would remain close until Hume’s death. In 1751, he became a professor at the University of Glasgow, teaching English, logic, rhetoric, and criticism. In 1759, Smith published his first major work, A Theory of Moral Sentiments, making him well known in European intellectual discourse.

In 1764, Smith moved to continental Europe, where he worked as a tutor in a few different countries and met prominent philosophes, such as d’Alembert, d’Holbach, Diderot, and physiocrat leader Quesnay. He moved to London in 1773, and published The Wealth of Nations in 1776, although it was not initially as popular as it is today. He later worked for a few years as a commissioner of customs in London. Smith retired to his hometown of Kirkcaldy, where he passed away in 1790.

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