Adam Smith was born in Kirkcaldy in 1723 and went on to be an important moral philosopher and economist and a key figure in the Scottish Enlightenment. The Wealth of Nations, or to give it its full title An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, is his most famous book and it charts the industrialisation of Europe and the growth of commerce. Smith advocated free trade, economic development free of government intervention, and his book contributed to the rise of economics as an academic subject.
He studied at both Glasgow and Oxford universities and by 1748 he was giving lectures in Edinburgh. He became friends with the philosopher David Hume and the two contributed greatly to this exciting period in Scottish academic history. Smith taught at Glasgow University for a number of years. He published his Theory of Moral Sentiments in 1759, a book which examined ethics and human nature. He suggested that people are born with a moral sense and in fact do not behave in a certain way because of reason. The book soon sold out and made Smith well known and wealthy.
In 1764 he agreed to tutor the Duke of Buccleuch and this gave him the chance to tour the continent and meet other great intellectuals. When he returned he was elected fellow of the Royal Society of London and spent the next few years writing the Wealth of Nations which he completed in 1776. The book was hugely successful and in 1778 he returned to Scotland to take up his post as Commissioner of Customs. He died in 1790 aged 67.