Adam Smith

Classic Pamphlet

Sir Alexander Gray, last updated: 5th March 2014

The Father of Modern Economics

Adam Smith 1723-1790

Adam Smith was so pre-eminently one of the master minds of the eighteenth century and so obviously one of the dominating influences of the nineteenth, in his own country and in the world at large, that is somewhat surprising that we are so ill-informed regarding the details of his life. The standard biography is the written by John Rae; but in some respects, viewed as merely as biography, it is rather a curious production.

Professor Scott, who piously devoted the evening of his life to unearthing all that was to be known or imagined regarding Adam Smith's life as a student and professor in the years before his fame, has very rightly said that Rae's Life ‘shows' immense skill in concealing gaps'.

The destruction of Adam Smith's manuscripts a week before his death was almost a symbolic act. Smith went through life, leaving few memorials apart from his enduring published works and the less enduring memorials of his intimate friends. Consequently there are very considerable stretches of his life about which we know little or nothing. His biographer therefore is almost perforce driven to eke out his scanty material by writing not so much a Biography of Adam Smith as a History of his Times...

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