"Wherever there is great property, there is great inequality." - Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations

Timeline

The Life & Work of Adam Smith

This historical timeline provides an overview of Adam Smith’s life, including some of his key achievements.
If you would like to find out more about what is known of his personal life, or a more comprehensive study of his work,
then please select from the menu at the top of this timeline.

 

1723-1740


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    Birth

    Adam Smith is born in Kirkcaldy, Scotland, the only child of Adam Smith and Margaret Douglas. The exact date of his birth is unknown but he is baptized at Kirkcaldy’s Old Kirk on 5th June of that year.

    1723

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    Begins Education

    Began work at the Button Factory. This was probably the best time of my life. I had a wife, a dog, and a family.

    1729

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    Enters University

    Smith enters University of Glasgow, aged 14.Studies Latin, Greek, Logic, Moral Philosophy, Mathematics and Natural Philosophy.

    1737

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    Graduation

    Adam Smith graduates with an MA, with distinction, before going on to be awarded a Snell Exhibition at Balliol College, Oxford. However, he quickly becomes disillusioned with this appointment and returns to Kirkcaldy.

    1740

1748-1764


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    Lectures

    He begins delivering public lectures at the University of Edinburgh, under the patronage of Lord Kames. It is here that he meets the philosopher and historian David Hume, who becomes a life-long friend and fellow figure of the Scottish Enlightenment.

    1748

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    Professor

    Smith is appointed the Professor of Logic at Glasgow University, before changing to the position of Chair of Moral Philosophy.

    1751-1752

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    Theory of Moral Sentiments

    Adam Smith publishes his first work, the Theory of Moral Sentiments, which closely examines the moral thinking of his time.

    1759

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    Tutoring

    Smith accepts a tutoring post to the 3rd Duke of Buccleuch, which involves a two year tour of Europe. It is during this time that he comes to know key figures from the French Enlightenment, such as Turgot, Voltaire and Quesney.

    1764

1767-1783


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    The Wealth of Nations

    After returning home to Kirkcaldy, he completes work on what many regard to be his magnum opus – The Wealth of Nations. In it he investigates the role of productivity, division of labour and free-markets, among other factors, in shaping a nation’s wealth.

    1767

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    Separate books

    The Wealth of Nations is published, comprising 5 separate books. It becomes a fundamental work in classical economics.

    1776

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    Moves to Edinburgh

    Smith relocates to Edinburgh, where he resides in Panmure House in the city’s Canongate. He becomes one of the founding members of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

    1778-1783

1787-1790


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    Awards

    He is awarded his final academic position, as Lord Rector of Glasgow University.

    1787

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    Death

    Adam Smith dies at his home in Edinburgh. He is laid to rest in the city’s Canongate Kirkyard.

    1790

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