David Hume was probably the greatest figure of the Scottish Enlightenment, and is recognised as one the most important figure in European philosophy. Though slightly older than Smith, the two became close friends and Hume’s writing was a strong early influence on Smith. Shortly after Hume’s death in 1776, Smith described his ‘as approaching as nearly to the idea of a perfectly wise and virtuous man, as perhaps the nature of human frailty will permit.’
Joseph Black was a fellow professor of Adam Smith at Glasgow where he taught Anatomy and Chemistry. He then moved to Edinburgh to become Professor of Medicine and Chemistry in 1766. As Smith is described as the ‘father’ of modern economics, so Black is credited with the same relationship to modern chemistry. Together with Smith and James Hutton, Black was a founder member of the Oyster Club in Edinburgh as a forum for intellectual conversation.
James Hutton studied medicine in Paris and Leiden before turning his hand to chemistry. He developed new processes for the textile industry and set up a successful chemical business in Edinburgh. He then moved into farming and developed a fascination with the formation of the land. Like his friends Smith and Black, he is credited with pioneering a new science; in Hutton’s case geology. He and Joseph Black were Smith’s executors.
Dugald Stewart was Professor of Moral Philosophy at Edinburgh from 1785. He had previously taught mathematics alongside his father Matthew, a Professor at Edinburgh and an old friend of Adam Smith from their student days in Glasgow. Dugald also became friends with Smith towards the end of his life, and later produced the first biography of him.
See below for a gallery of thinkers connected to Smith.