Adam Smith 1723–90
Smith was educated at Glasgow University and at Balliol College, Oxford. His academic and literary career, at the start of the Scottish Enlightenment’s leadership of Europe, shows the range and versatility of learned men of the period. Having lectured on rhetoric and belles-lettres, he became Professor of Logic and then Moral Philosophy (1752) at Glasgow, and published his Theory of Moral Sentiments in 1759. Leaving his chair, he travelled as tutor to the Duke of Buccleuch on the Continent, where he developed his interest in political economy, later given its fullest expression in his major work An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776). He wrote also on aesthetic topics, and was a member of Johnson’s Club. In Smith’s view, individual self-interests accumulate to the public benefit: here he demonstrates the value of the division of labour in an apparently simple manufacturing process.