The Adam Smith Library – who was Adam Smith?


Adam Smith

Adam Smith (1723-1790) is best known as the author of An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776), one of the most influential books ever written. Smith transformed our thinking about the principles of economic life, from an ancient to a distinctively modern form, based on a completely new understanding of how human society works (Butler, 2007).

Adam Smith was born in Kirkcaldy on 5 June 1723, the only child of Adam and Margaret. He was educated at the burgh school of Kirkcaldy, where he was given a strong foundation in English composition and classical studies – introducing him to Roman history.  Smith was at Glasgow University for the session 1737-1740 and studied here for four sessions. He then went to Oxford  in June 1740, and stayed there until 1746. (Ross, 1995)


Theory of Moral Sentiments by Adam Smith (title page of first edition) Sp Coll Mu40-d.10

Smith returned to Glasgow in 1751, first becoming Professor of Logic, then Professor of Moral Philosophy and later served as Rector from 1787-89. He described his time as an academic at Glasgow University as ‘by far the most useful and therefore by the happiest and most honourable’ of his career (Ross, 1995)


Available from our Special Collections department are first editions of Smith’s first publication, The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759) and his classic work, An Inquiry into the nature and causes of the wealth of nations (1776).







Adam Smith Building/Business School & Library

 Adam Smith Building

The Adam Smith Building was designed by David Harvey, Alex Scott & Associates and formally opened on 2 November 1967. The building was the first of the University’s multipurpose blocks housing a number of departments and a library.   In 1968 the Social Science Departments moved into to the new Adam Smith Building.  The eight departmental libraries merged to form the Adam Smith Library.  (

The Adam Smith Library is on level 4 of the Adam Smith Building.  In 2004-2006 the reading area of the library was refurbished, adding a number of computer ports and the installation of wireless. The library  accommodates 58 study spaces which includes two study rooms for 6 and 8 readers.

The Adam Smith Library is open to all University of Glasgow staff and students. The Library holds a collection of almost 22,100 books in many subjects, reference works, including foreign language dictionaries which are located in the reading area. There is also a collection of dissertations on Business Management (which are for reference only) and Sociology (which may be borrowed).

15 - 027 Adam Smith Library 00215 - 027 Adam Smith Library 010









Butler, E., 2007. Adam Smith : a primer. London: Institute of Economic Affairs.

Ross, Ian Simpson., 1995 The life of Adam Smith. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Smith, A. 1759. The theory of moral sentiments. London, Printed for A. Millar in the Strand, and A. Kincaid and J. Bell in Edinburgh.

Smith, A. 1776. An inquiry into the nature and causes of the wealth of nations. London, Printed for W. Strahan; and T. Cadell, in the Strand.


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