Adam Smith

On this date in 1723, Adam Smith was born in Scotland. He was educated at Glasgow University, where he won an exhibition giving him a scholarship to Oxford, on the condition that he become a minister of the Church of Scotland. A rationalist, he ignored the condition. Smith became chair of logic, then moral philosophy, at Glasgow University, where he sought unsuccessfully to discontinue classroom prayers and religious duties. Adam served as dean of the faculty from 1760 to 1762, when he became vice-rector. He was on friendly terms with Glasgow's elite freethinkers, including David Hume and deistic engineer James Watt. Smith's Theory of the Moral Sentiment was published in 1759. As tutor to the young Duke of Buccleuch, he lived in France for a while, where he became friendly with Voltaire, Rousseau, and the French Encyclopedists. In 1767, he joined the Royal Society. His master work, Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, was published in 2 volumes in 1776. The classic explanation of the free market was quickly translated into many other languages. In 1777, Smith's Life of Hume came out, clearly endorsing Hume's rationalist views. After Smith became Lord Rector of Glasgow University in 1787—a position requiring that he bow to convention—he begged off aiding in the posthumous publication of Hume's Dialogues on Natural Religion. Smith was said to have burned 16 volumes of his own manuscripts before his death. He advised, "Virtue is more to be feared than vice, because its excesses are not subject to the regulation of conscience." During his lifetime, Smith had made many secret acts of charity. D. 1790.

“Science is the great antidote to the poison of enthusiasm and superstition.”

—-Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations, 1776

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

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