UofG's Adam Smith Tercentenary awarded John Templeton Foundation funding

The University of Glasgow has been awarded a prestigious John Templeton Foundation Grant for its 300th anniversary celebration of Adam Smith’s birth.

Throughout 2023, the University will mark the tercentenary of its famous alumnus and the founder of modern economics, with a raft of events and programmes designed to inspire renewed discussion about Smith’s ideas.

The philanthropic organisation has awarded the University £970,000 for the “Smith@300: Celebrating Adam Smith as Scholar, Educator, and Citizen” project.

The grant will fund the development of a Global Reading Group that will study Smith’s seminal book, The Wealth of Nations. This will provide academics, alumni, students and the public with the opportunity to join together as a global community to read, examine and discuss Smith’s work, and how it relates to today’s society and challenges.

The University will also appoint eight Templeton Adam Smith Tercentenary Fellows, host a one-day conference exploring Smith’s views on ethics and business, and develop an online learning course (or Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) ) on ‘Adam Smith and Commercial Virtue’. The next generation of Smith scholars will be supported through Post-Doctoral Fellowships and an Early Career Scholar Fund.

Additionally, the funding will be used to support a social media campaign that will introduce Smith to a broad public audience, bringing his learning into dialogue with contemporary debates and challenges.

Dr Craig Smith, Adam Smith Senior Lecturer in the Scottish Enlightenment at the University of Glasgow, led the grant bid. He said: “Our aim with the tercentenary is not only to celebrate the work, life and impact of this pioneering Scot, but also to bring Adam Smith into conversations about the problems we are facing as a society today. Engaging with Smith’s ideas through the 2023 tercentenary programme will enable us to learn more about him as an educator, citizen and scholar, and the impact he had in these roles.

“The University of Glasgow, as Adam Smith’s intellectual home and a seat of learning, is a fitting location to highlight how his legacy as the founder of modern economics is as relevant today as it was during his lifetime.

“We look forward to taking part in the University’s commemoration of a true world changer, and to considering how his thoughts and ideas help us answer the challenges of today and to partnering with others who are marking Smith’s anniversary across the world.

“We are grateful to the John Templeton Foundation for awarding us this grant that will help us to explore Adam Smith’s ideas in his tercentenary year and contribute to his ambition of building a more just, freer, and prosperous world.”

The John Templeton Foundation was founded in honour of eminent American-British scientist Sir John Templeton, whose work focused on how science might be harnessed to make similar progress in understanding the deepest and most perplexing questions facing humankind. The Foundation aspires to fulfil Templeton’s vision to become a global catalyst for discoveries that contribute to human flourishing, and offers grants in support of research and public engagement in its major funding areas.

Smith’s work has had a lasting impact on the way the world considers economics, politics and society more broadly. The University of Glasgow’s tercentenary commemoration includes a host of events in Scotland and around the world, designed to inspire renewed discussion about Smith’s ideas.

Professor Sir Anton Muscatelli, Principal and Vice Chancellor, University of Glasgow, said: “Adam Smith left an indelible mark on the University of Glasgow, economics and the world. His studies and writings introduced new ideas, insights and concepts that are taken for granted today but were revolutionary in their day.

“It is a privilege for the University to be so closely associated with Adam Smith and the plans we have to celebrate his tercentenary will see academics, students and the public discuss his relevance to today in events across the world.”


Adam Smith

Smith, born in Kirkcaldy, Fife, in June 1723 started his studies at the University of Glasgow aged 14. In 1740, he was awarded the Snell Scholarship, which is still in existence today, and left to study at Oxford. In 1751, Smith returned to Glasgow as a Professor of Logic, later becoming Professor of Moral Philosophy.

While at Glasgow, Smith published the first edition of The Theory of Moral Sentiments in 1759, developing upon the principles and concepts explored in his lectures.

Smith’s final connection with the University came in 1787 when he assumed the prominent position of Rector. He published arguably his most famous work The Wealth of Nations in 1776 and died in 1790.  Smith is considered to be the founder of modern economics.

Tercentenary Celebrations at the University of Glasgow

Throughout 2023, programmes and events at the University of Glasgow will give academics, students and the public the chance to learn about and explore Adam Smith’s life and work. Highlights include:

  • Tercentenary Week - a weeklong series of activities, including talks and exhibitions in June 2023 at the University of Glasgow featuring scholars from the London School of Economics, the universities of Princeton and Harvard and the University of Cambridge.
  • An on campus and virtual exhibition of significant and rare Smith-related artifacts - including letters, first edition books and material from the University of Glasgow’s archives.
  • The Adam Smith Tercentenary Global Lecture Series, featuring internationally renowned speakers from academia, business and public policy.
  • New research into Smith’s life and writings.
  • The Royal Economic Society and Scottish Economic Society Joint Conference in April, featuring global academics reflecting upon Smith’s legacy.

Other activities involve a national student competition to re-design the front cover of The Wealth of Nations, online courses for adult learners, and new programmes to introduce high schools to Adam Smith and his ideas. Universities from across the world, in North and South America, Asia, Africa, Europe and Australia will be joining in the commemorations with their own events to mark the tercentenary.

First published: 28 November 2022