In 1776, several years after his good friend James Watt had obtained the first patent covering the steam engine and several years before the process for making wrought iron was devised, Adam Smith (1723-1790), a retired professor of moral philosophy at the University of Glasgow, published An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. This book was immediately popular. It went through five editions in English and was translated into four foreign languages during its author's lifetime, and has stimulated and provoked Western economic thought and debate down to our own time. It won for Smith a secure place as the chief founder of the body of thought which we call classical economics. [excerpt]
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Bloom, Robert L. et al. "6. Classical Economics from Smith to Malthus. Pt XIV: The Industrial Revolution, Classical Economics, and Economic Liberalism." Ideas and Institutions of Western Man (Gettysburg College, 1958), 16-20.