Thursday, June 05, 2008

Adam Smith's Birth Date is Unknown posts ‘Adam Smith (Philosopher / Economist)’, a short biography:

"· Born: June 1723
· Birthplace: Kirkcaldy, Scotland
· Died: 17 July 1790
· Best Known As: The author of An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations

Scottish philosopher Adam Smith is the author of the 1776 book An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, a classic of modern economics beloved especially by free market advocates. He began his academic career as a professor of logic and moral philosophy in Glasgow (1751-64), but after about 1748 he was famously part of the Edinburgh intellectual circle that included David Hume. Smith gained international attention for his 1759 examination of societal ethics, Theory of Moral Sentiments, in which he argued that people are naturally empathetic to those suffering in their midst. But his Wealth of Nations secured Smith's fame -- the book sold out five editions during his lifetime, including revised versions in 1784 and 1789. He is credited with being the first to examine the importance of the division of labor and worker productivity, and for advancing the idea that free markets thrive on the basis of mutual self-interest. Although Smith warned against monopolies and mercantilism, his notion that markets are driven toward the public good by an "invisible hand" has made him a venerated figure among free market doctrinaires. He spent his last years in Edinburgh as a government official, as the Commissioner of Customs.

Most sources list his birth date as 5 June 1723, the date of his baptism. His father died before Smith was born [January, 1723]; Smith lived with his mother most of his life and never married."

Adam Smith was baptised on 5 June 1723 and this date is often accorded the unlikely honour of being his birth date in the absence of an exact date, probably earlier in June, or even May. Children, at the time in Scotland and since, were baptised several days after their birth (as, indeed, I was).

There are numerous minor errors in the above biographical entry (invisible hands, and so on), but the site provides a dozen more similar entries on Adam Smith in the post, all of which can be accessed via the site (HERE), and all of which contain different minor errors, depending on their sources.


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