Adam Smith (June 5, 1723-July 17, 1790) was a Scottish political economist and moral
philosopher. His ‘Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of Wealth of Nations’ was one of the
earliest attempts to study the historical development of industry and commerce in Europe. That
work helped to create the modern academic discipline of Economics and provided one of the
best-known intellectual rationales for free trade and capitalism.
At the age of about fifteen, Smith proceeded to the University of Glasgow, studying moral
philosophy under “the never-to-be-forgotten” (as Smith called him) Francis Hutcheson. In 1740
he entered the Balliol College of the University of Oxford, but as William Robert Scott has said,
“the Oxford of his time gave little if any help towards what was to be his lifework,” and he left
the university in 1746. In 1748 he began delivering public lectures in Edinburgh under the
patronage of Lord Kames. Some of these dealt with rhetoric and belles-lettres, but later he took
up the subject of “the progress of opulence,” and it was then, in his middle or late 20s, that
he first expounded the economic philosophy of “the obvious and simple system of natural
liberty” which he was later to proclaim to the world in his Inquiry into the Nature and Causes
of the Wealth of Nations.