The Life of an Absent-minded Professor

Iain McLean

in Adam Smith, Radical and Egalitarian

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print July 2006 | ISBN: 9780748623525
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748672110 | DOI:
The Life of an Absent-minded Professor

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This chapter introduces the life of Adam Smith as an absent-minded professor. Smith became absent-minded as he grew up. The events of his quiet life give vital clues as to how and why he shaped the world in his mind. Smith did not learned from any tutors at Balliol, but spent his six lonely years there in a self-directed programme of extensive reading in classical and contemporary literature and social science. It is tentatively suggested that it probably was Smith's advice that caused Townshend to tax the colonists. He was in government service as a backroom adviser while he was in London. He spent most of the rest of his life in public service, while giving as much time as he could to plans to revise and (re)publish his works. In his own lifetime, he had seen his economic doctrines adopted by leading politicians of both parties.

Keywords: Adam Smith; absent-minded; Balliol; Townshend; backroom adviser; London; public service

Chapter.  11866 words. 

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