Adam Smith was born in the town of Kirkcaldy, in Fife, Scotland. His exact date of birth is unknown, though he was baptised on the 5th June 1723, which is often celebrated as his birthday.

Kirkcaldy was a small but thriving port with a population of around 1,500 people. Young Smith would have been familiar with industry and international trade.

Watch Adam Smith: Who was Adam Smith?

Adam Smith was born in the town of Kirkcaldy, Fife, in Scotland. At the time, Kirkcaldy was a small but thriving port, with a population of around 1,500 people. Though the 1707 Treaty of Union between England and Scotland would have redirected much of this commerce, young Smith would have been familiar with industry and international trade.

His exact date of birth is unknown, though he was baptised at Kirkcaldy’s Old Kirk on the 5th of June 1723, which is often celebrated as his birthday.

Smith's father, and namesake, Adam Smith, was a local customs officer who passed away shortly before Smith was born. Smith’s mother, Margaret Douglas, was the daughter of Robert Douglas of Strathendry, a wealthy landowner. The widowed Margaret Douglas raised Smith alone and never remarried, forming a close bond with her son which would continue throughout his life. Smith also had one half-brother, named Hugh Smith, from his father’s previous marriage.

Smith displayed academic promise from an early age, and he excelled in his studies. He attended the Burgh School of Kirkcaldy under the tutelage of Mr David Miller, from 1729 to 1737, where he studied mathematics, history, Latin and writing.

He first studied at Glasgow at the age of 14, before going to Oxford. Little is known about Smith's time at Oxford. What he read, where he read and who may have instructed him was never recorded. Though Smith remained in Oxford for six years, he was not impressed by the teaching style and found it paled in comparison to Glasgow’s more rigorous methods. Orthodox Church of England Oxford did not have the same stimulating atmosphere as Glasgow, an expanding, industrialising city.

In 1746 Smith returned to Kirkcaldy and convalesced for a year. During this period, Lord Kames, a senior judge and leading figure in Scotland’s cultural life, encouraged Smith to produce a series of public lectures in Edinburgh. They were very well received and attended by middle class men in professions such as academia, industry, and commerce. During this public lecture series, common themes in Smith’s work began to emerge, laying the foundations for his later publications.

When a position at the University of Glasgow became available, Smith's appointment was enthusiastically endorsed by the Duke of Argyll, who had a significant say over appointments in government and universities in Scotland.

Smith then returned to Glasgow until 1764 when was offered a lucrative position by the wealthy politician, Charles Townshend, an admirer of his work. He was employed to act as both private tutor and companion to the young Duke of Buccleuch (a relative of Townshend), who was about to undertake his Grand Tour of Europe. Though Smith was conflicted about leaving his students he could not ignore the opportunity to meet with the leading philosophical figures of the day and expand his knowledge. Smith found inspiration in the leaders of the Physiocrat movement and was welcomed by the intellectual society which met him in Paris. Eager to stay connected to the University of Glasgow, Smith remained in regular correspondence with Glasgow professors. Smith returned to Scotland in 1766 following the death of the Duke of Buccleuch’s brother, keeping in contact with the Buccleuch family.

The substantial pension offered by the Duke of Buccleuch provided Smith with the freedom to work on the Wealth of Nations in earnest. Smith devoted nine years to writing the book, living between Kirkcaldy and London. The Wealth of Nations was published in 1776 and was met with an enthusiastic reception, with the first edition selling out in six months. This positive reception reflected the evolving intellectual and industrial landscape, where new ways of thinking were a driving influence upon the changing world.

In 1778 Smith assumed the role of Commissioner of Customs, moving to Edinburgh to live in Panmure House with his mother and his cousin, Janet Douglas. Smith became a well-known figure around town, welcoming leading members of the literati to Panmure House to engage in lively debates and discuss key developments in Scottish Enlightenment thinking. He was also a founding member of the famous Oyster Club, a regular dinner hosted by the Scottish literati. While living in Panmure House, Smith produced several revisions to both the Wealth of Nations and The Theory of Moral Sentiments, displaying his ongoing commitment to his work and its influence upon society. He maintained a connection with Glasgow University through the position of rector in 1787.

Smith died in 1790, two years after his mother, and was buried in the nearby Canongate Cemetery. He is described as having "died of a decay" in the Old Parish Register. We have no record of Smith's final papers on history of government and literature, as he left strict instructions with his executors to destroy most of his unpublished works. He did allow a few essays to survive, and these were published posthumously in 1795 as The Essays on Philosophical Subjects.