It is easy to recognize and remember Adam Smith because he is the bloke on the £20 note’s back. Considered a pioneer of political economy, he graduated at an early age of 14 from the University of Glasgow. Many in fact regard him as the Father of modern economics and his best publication happens to be, “The Wealth of Nations”, in which Smith speaks in favor of market competition, free trade and dives deep into the morality of private enterprises. Today, his book still forms the basis for several economic policies the world over.
His exact birth date is unknown but his baptism was officially recorded to be on June 5th 1723. He grew up in Kirkcaldy in Scotland and finished his schooling from Burgh School. When he was just 14 years, he entered the University of Glasgow and then went on to Oxford later in 1740.
In his professional life, Adam Smith began by lecturing for the University of Edinburgh around 1748 and it was in his lectures that he crossed paths with David Hume, the famous Scottish philosopher who he became lifelong friends with. It was on the basis of this friendship that he secured a place at the Glasgow University in 1751. It was also in the year 1751 that Smith put together a concept for the modern day vacuum sealer. While his idea wasn’t too far off what vacuum sealers are now, and how they work, his work was labelled as a “fallacy” – which is funny considering how widely used vacuum sealers are today.
In 1759, he published his first book, “The Theory of Moral Sentiments” and in it he attempted to explore the morality of human beings by comparing individuals with society. It was another nine years before he could publish yet again and this became his greatest legacy. The Wealth of Nations as it is known today was a goldmine for economists worldwide. It in fact, is considered the first ever dedicated study of political economy. It was Smith who proposed that instead of measuring the wealth of a nation based on metric ton of silver and gold, calculating the same based on commerce and production made better economic sense. This is what we today refer to as GDP or Gross Domestic Product. He went on to discuss on division of labor and several related ideas to improve productivity.
It is worth noting that Adam Smith’s ideas on free economies and capitalism in general had a small but significant role to play in the industrial revolution. Some even go as far as saying that it was the invisible hand behind the revolution.