Adam Smith was a Scottish economist, educated at Glasgow and Oxford. He became professor of moral philosophy at the University of Glasgow in 1752, and while teaching there wrote his Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759), which gave him the beginnings of an international reputation. He traveled on the Continent from 1764 to 1766 as tutor to the Duke of Buccleuch and while in France met some of the physiocrats, and began to write An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, finally published in 1776.
Smith suggested the theory of the division of labor and emphasized that value arises from the labor expended in the process of production. He was led by the rationalist current of the century, as well as by the more direct influence of Hume and others, to believe that in a laissez-faire economy the impulse of self-interest would bring about the public welfare. Smith was opposed to monopolies and the concepts of mercantilism in general but he favored some restrictions to free trade, such as the Navigation Acts, as sometimes necessary national economic weapons in the existing state of the world.
Smith identified self-interest as the basic economic force and, through his analysis of the division of labor and his comprehensive study of the development of economic institutions in the West, established economics as a major area of study. The Division of labor is the specialization of the functions and roles involved in production. Among the different categories of division of labor are territorial, in which certain geographical regions specialize in producing certain products, exchanging their surplus for goods produced elsewhere; temporal, in which separate processes are performed by different industrial groups in manufacturing one product, as the making of bread by farmers, millers, and bakers; and occupational, in which goods produced in the same industrial group are worked by a number of persons, each applying one or more processes and skills.