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Notable economists François Quesnay Adam Smith David Ricardo Thomas Robert Malthus John Stuart Mill Karl Marx Léon Walras Alfred Marshall John Maynard Keynes Arthur Cecil Pigou John Hicks Wassily Leontief Paul Samuelson more
Lists Economists Publications (journals)
Glossary Glossary of economics
1.1 Early life 1.2 Formal education 1.3 Teaching career 1.4 Tutoring and travels 1.5 Later years 1.6 Death
2 Personality and beliefs
2.1 Character 2.2 Religious views
3 Published works
3.1 The Theory of Moral Sentiments 3.2 The Wealth of Nations 3.3 Other works
4.1 In economics and moral philosophy 4.2 In British Imperial debates 4.3 Portraits, monuments, and banknotes 4.4 Residence 4.5 As a symbol of free-market economics 4.6 Criticism
5 See also 6 References
6.1 Informational notes 6.2 Citations 6.3 Bibliography
7 Further reading 8 External links
Smith was born in Kirkcaldy, in the County of Fife, Scotland. His
father, also Adam Smith, was a Scottish Writer to the Signet (senior
solicitor), advocate and prosecutor (judge advocate) and also served
as comptroller of the customs in Kirkcaldy. Smith's mother
was born Margaret Douglas, daughter of the landed Robert Douglas of
Strathendry, also in Fife; she married Smith's father in 1720. Two
months before Smith was born, his father died, leaving his mother a
widow. The date of Smith's baptism into the Church of
Smith entered the
University of Glasgow
Smith began delivering public lectures in 1748 at the University of
Edinburgh, sponsored by the Philosophical
François Quesnay, one of the leaders of the physiocratic school of
Following the publication of The Theory of Moral Sentiments, Smith
became so popular that many wealthy students left their schools in
other countries to enroll at Glasgow to learn under Smith.
After the publication of The Theory of Moral Sentiments, Smith began
to give more attention to jurisprudence and economics in his lectures
and less to his theories of morals. For example, Smith
lectured that the cause of increase in national wealth is labour,
rather than the nation's quantity of gold or silver, which is the
basis for mercantilism, the economic theory that dominated Western
European economic policies at the time.
In 1762, the
University of Glasgow
Tutoring and travels
Smith's tutoring job entailed touring Europe with Scott, during which
time he educated Scott on a variety of subjects, such as etiquette and
manners. He was paid £300 per year (plus expenses) along with a £300
per year pension; roughly twice his former income as a
teacher. Smith first travelled as a tutor to Toulouse,
France, where he stayed for a year and a half. According to his own
account, he found
In 1766, Henry Scott's younger brother died in Paris, and Smith's tour
as a tutor ended shortly thereafter. Smith returned home
that year to Kirkcaldy, and he devoted much of the next decade to
writing his magnum opus. There, he befriended Henry Moyes,
a young blind man who showed precocious aptitude. Smith secured the
A commemorative plaque for Smith is located in Smith's home town of
Smith died in the northern wing of Panmure House in
Personality and beliefs
James Tassie's enamel paste medallion of Smith provided the model
for many engravings and portraits that remain today.
Not much is known about Smith's personal views beyond what can be
deduced from his published articles. His personal papers were
destroyed after his death at his request. He never
married, and seems to have maintained a close relationship
with his mother, with whom he lived after his return from France and
who died six years before him.
Smith was described by several of his contemporaries and biographers
as comically absent-minded, with peculiar habits of speech and gait,
and a smile of "inexpressible benignity". He was known to
talk to himself, a habit that began during his childhood
when he would smile in rapt conversation with invisible
companions. He also had occasional spells of imaginary
illness, and he is reported to have had books and papers
placed in tall stacks in his study. According to one
story, Smith took
Portrait of Smith by John Kay, 1790
Smith has been alternatively described as someone who "had a large
nose, bulging eyes, a protruding lower lip, a nervous twitch, and a
speech impediment" and one whose "countenance was manly and
agreeable". Smith is said to have acknowledged
his looks at one point, saying, "I am a beau in nothing but my
books." Smith rarely sat for portraits, so
almost all depictions of him created during his lifetime were drawn
from memory. The best-known portraits of Smith are the profile by
Considerable scholarly debate has occurred about the nature of Smith's
religious views. Smith's father had shown a strong interest in
Christianity and belonged to the moderate wing of the Church of
Scotland. The fact that
The Theory of Moral Sentiments
Main article: The Theory of Moral Sentiments
In 1759, Smith published his first work, The Theory of Moral
Sentiments, sold by co-publishers
Andrew Millar of London and
Alexander Kincaid of Edinburgh. Smith continued making
extensive revisions to the book until his death.[d] Although
The Wealth of Nations
The Wealth of Nations Main article: The Wealth of Nations Disagreement exists between classical and neoclassical economists about the central message of Smith's most influential work: An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776). Neoclassical economists emphasise Smith's invisible hand, a concept mentioned in the middle of his work – Book IV, Chapter II – and classical economists believe that Smith stated his programme for promoting the "wealth of nations" in the first sentences, which attributes the growth of wealth and prosperity to the division of labour. Smith used the term "the invisible hand" in "History of Astronomy" referring to "the invisible hand of Jupiter", and once in each of his The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759) and The Wealth of Nations (1776). This last statement about "an invisible hand" has been interpreted in numerous ways.
Later building on the site where Smith wrote The Wealth of Nations As every individual, therefore, endeavours as much as he can both to employ his capital in the support of domestic industry, and so to direct that industry that its produce may be of the greatest value; every individual necessarily labours to render the annual revenue of the society as great as he can. He generally, indeed, neither intends to promote the public interest, nor knows how much he is promoting it. By preferring the support of domestic to that of foreign industry, he intends only his own security; and by directing that industry in such a manner as its produce may be of the greatest value, he intends only his own gain, and he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention. Nor is it always the worse for the society that it was no part of it. By pursuing his own interest he frequently promotes that of the society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it. I have never known much good done by those who affected to trade for the public good. It is an affectation, indeed, not very common among merchants, and very few words need be employed in dissuading them from it. Those who regard that statement as Smith's central message also quote frequently Smith's dictum:
It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities but of their advantages.However, in The Theory of Moral Sentiments he had a more sceptical approach to self-interest as driver of behaviour:How selfish soever man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles in his nature, which interest him in the fortune of others, and render their happiness necessary to him, though he derives nothing from it except the pleasure of seeing it. The first page of The Wealth of Nations, 1776 London edition Smith's statement about the benefits of "an invisible hand" may be meant to answer Mandeville's contention that "Private Vices ... may be turned into Public Benefits". It shows Smith's belief that when an individual pursues his self-interest under conditions of justice, he unintentionally promotes the good of society. Self-interested competition in the free market, he argued, would tend to benefit society as a whole by keeping prices low, while still building in an incentive for a wide variety of goods and services. Nevertheless, he was wary of businessmen and warned of their "conspiracy against the public or in some other contrivance to raise prices". Again and again, Smith warned of the collusive nature of business interests, which may form cabals or monopolies, fixing the highest price "which can be squeezed out of the buyers". Smith also warned that a business-dominated political system would allow a conspiracy of businesses and industry against consumers, with the former scheming to influence politics and legislation. Smith states that the interest of manufacturers and merchants "in any particular branch of trade or manufactures, is always in some respects different from, and even opposite to, that of the public ... The proposal of any new law or regulation of commerce which comes from this order, ought always to be listened to with great precaution, and ought never be adopted till after having been long and carefully examined, not only with the most scrupulous, but with the most suspicious attention." Thus Smith's chief worry seems to be when business is given special protections or privileges from government; by contrast, in the absence of such special political favours, he believed that business activities were generally beneficial to the whole society:
It is the great multiplication of the production of all the different arts, in consequence of the division of labour, which occasions, in a well-governed society, that universal opulence which extends itself to the lowest ranks of the people. Every workman has a great quantity of his own work to dispose of beyond what he himself has occasion for; and every other workman being exactly in the same situation, he is enabled to exchange a great quantity of his own goods for a great quantity, or, what comes to the same thing, for the price of a great quantity of theirs. He supplies them abundantly with what they have occasion for, and they accommodate him as amply with what he has occasion for, and a general plenty diffuses itself through all the different ranks of society. (The Wealth of Nations, I.i.10) The neoclassical interest in Smith's statement about "an invisible hand" originates in the possibility of seeing it as a precursor of neoclassical economics and its concept of general equilibrium – Samuelson's "Economics" refers six times to Smith's "invisible hand". To emphasise this connection, Samuelson quotes Smith's "invisible hand" statement substituting "general interest" for "public interest". Samuelson concludes: "Smith was unable to prove the essence of his invisible-hand doctrine. Indeed, until the 1940s, no one knew how to prove, even to state properly, the kernel of truth in this proposition about perfectly competitive market."
1922 printing of An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth
Very differently, classical economists see in Smith's first sentences
his programme to promote "The Wealth of Nations". Using the
physiocratical concept of the economy as a circular process, to secure
growth the inputs of Period 2 must exceed the inputs of Period 1.
Therefore, those outputs of Period 1 which are not used or usable as
inputs of Period 2 are regarded as unproductive labour, as they do not
contribute to growth. This is what Smith had heard in France from,
among others, François Quesnay, whose ideas Smith was so impressed by
that he might have dedicated
The Wealth of Nations
The annual labour of every nation is the fund which originally supplies it with all the necessaries and conveniences of life which it annually consumes ... . [T]his produce ... bears a greater or smaller proportion to the number of those who are to consume it ... .[B]ut this proportion must in every nation be regulated by two different circumstances; first, by the skill, dexterity, and judgment with which its labour is generally applied; and, secondly, by the proportion between the number of those who are employed in useful labour, and that of those who are not so employed [emphasis added]. However, Smith added that the "abundance or scantiness of this supply too seems to depend more upon the former of those two circumstances than upon the latter."
Smith's burial place in
In economics and moral philosophy
The Wealth of Nations
Men may live together in society with some tolerable degree of
security, though there is no civil magistrate to protect them from the
injustice of those passions. But avarice and ambition in the rich, in
the poor the hatred of labour and the love of present ease and
enjoyment, are the passions which prompt to invade property, passions
much more steady in their operation, and much more universal in their
influence. Wherever there is great property there is great inequality.
For one very rich man there must be at least five hundred poor, and
the affluence of the few supposes the indigence of the many. The
affluence of the rich excites the indignation of the poor, who are
often both driven by want, and prompted by envy, to invade his
possessions. It is only under the shelter of the civil magistrate that
the owner of that valuable property, which is acquired by the labour
of many years, or perhaps of many successive generations, can sleep a
single night in security. He is at all times surrounded by unknown
enemies, whom, though he never provoked, he can never appease, and
from whose injustice he can be protected only by the powerful arm of
the civil magistrate continually held up to chastise it. The
acquisition of valuable and extensive property, therefore, necessarily
requires the establishment of civil government. Where there is no
property, or at least none that exceeds the value of two or three
days' labour, civil government is not so necessary. Civil government
supposes a certain subordination. But as the necessity of civil
government gradually grows up with the acquisition of valuable
property, so the principal causes which naturally introduce
subordination gradually grow up with the growth of that valuable
property. (...) Men of inferior wealth combine to defend those of
superior wealth in the possession of their property, in order that men
of superior wealth may combine to defend them in the possession of
theirs. All the inferior shepherds and herdsmen feel that the security
of their own herds and flocks depends upon the security of those of
the great shepherd or herdsman; that the maintenance of their lesser
authority depends upon that of his greater authority, and that upon
their subordination to him depends his power of keeping their
inferiors in subordination to them. They constitute a sort of little
nobility, who feel themselves interested to defend the property and to
support the authority of their own little sovereign in order that he
may be able to defend their property and to support their authority.
Civil government, so far as it is instituted for the security of
property, is in reality instituted for the defence of the rich against
the poor, or of those who have some property against those who have
none at all. (Source: The Wealth of Nations, Book 5, Chapter 1, Part
In British Imperial debates
Smith's chapter on colonies, in turn, would help shape British
imperial debates from the mid-19th century onward. The Wealth of
Nations would become an ambiguous text regarding the imperial
question. In his chapter on colonies, Smith pondered how to solve the
crisis developing across the Atlantic among the empire's 13 American
colonies. He offered two different proposals for easing tensions. The
first proposal called for giving the colonies their independence, and
by thus parting on a friendly basis, Britain would be able to develop
and maintain a free-trade relationship with them, and possibly even an
informal military alliance. Smith's second proposal called for a
theoretical imperial federation that would bring the colonies and the
metropole closer together through an imperial parliamentary system and
imperial free trade.
Smith's most prominent disciple in 19th-century Britain, peace
advocate Richard Cobden, preferred the first proposal. Cobden would
Anti-Corn Law League
Portraits, monuments, and banknotes
A statue of Smith in Edinburgh's High Street, erected through
private donations organised by the
Statue of Smith built in 1867–1870 at the old headquarters of the
University of London, 6 Burlington Gardens
A large-scale memorial of Smith by
As a symbol of free-market economics
Adam Smith's Spinning Top, sculpture by
The subjects of every state ought to contribute towards the support of the government, as nearly as possible, in proportion to their respective abilities; that is, in proportion to the revenue which they respectively enjoy under the protection of the state. Some commentators have argued that Smith's works show support for a progressive, not flat, income tax and that he specifically named taxes that he thought should be required by the state, among them luxury-goods taxes and tax on rent. Yet Smith argued for the "impossibility of taxing the people, in proportion to their economic revenue, by any capitation" (The Wealth of Nations, V.ii.k.1). Smith argued that taxes should principally go toward protecting "justice" and "certain publick institutions" that were necessary for the benefit of all of society, but that could not be provided by private enterprise (The Wealth of Nations, IV.ix.51). Additionally, Smith outlined the proper expenses of the government in The Wealth of Nations, Book V, Ch. I. Included in his requirements of a government is to enforce contracts and provide justice system, grant patents and copy rights, provide public goods such as infrastructure, provide national defence, and regulate banking. The role of the government was to provide goods "of such a nature that the profit could never repay the expense to any individual" such as roads, bridges, canals, and harbours. He also encouraged invention and new ideas through his patent enforcement and support of infant industry monopolies. He supported partial public subsidies for elementary education, and he believed that competition among religious institutions would provide general benefit to the society. In such cases, however, Smith argued for local rather than centralised control: "Even those publick works which are of such a nature that they cannot afford any revenue for maintaining themselves ... are always better maintained by a local or provincial revenue, under the management of a local and provincial administration, than by the general revenue of the state" (Wealth of Nations, V.i.d.18). Finally, he outlined how the government should support the dignity of the monarch or chief magistrate, such that they are equal or above the public in fashion. He even states that monarchs should be provided for in a greater fashion than magistrates of a republic because "we naturally expect more splendor in the court of a king than in the mansion-house of a doge". In addition, he allowed that in some specific circumstances, retaliatory tariffs may be beneficial:
The recovery of a great foreign market will generally more than
compensate the transitory inconvenience of paying dearer during a
short time for some sorts of goods.
However, he added that in general, a retaliatory tariff "seems a bad
method of compensating the injury done to certain classes of our
people, to do another injury ourselves, not only to those classes, but
to almost all the other classes of them" (The Wealth of Nations,
Economic historians such as
Jacob Viner regard Smith as a strong
advocate of free markets and limited government (what Smith called
"natural liberty"), but not as a dogmatic supporter of
The price of labour, it must be observed, cannot be ascertained very accurately anywhere, different prices being often paid at the same place and for the same sort of labour, not only according to the different abilities of the workmen, but according to the easiness or hardness of the masters. Where wages are not regulated by law, all that we can pretend to determine is what are the most usual; and experience seems to show that law can never regulate them properly, though it has often pretended to do so. (The Wealth of Nations, Book 1, Chapter 8) However, Smith also noted, to the contrary, the existence of an imbalanced, inequality of bargaining power:
A landlord, a farmer, a master manufacturer, a merchant, though they
did not employ a single workman, could generally live a year or two
upon the stocks which they have already acquired. Many workmen could
not subsist a week, few could subsist a month, and scarce any a year
without employment. In the long run, the workman may be as necessary
to his master as his master is to him, but the necessity is not so
List of abolitionist forerunners
List of Fellows of the Royal
^ In Life of Adam Smith, Rae writes: "In his fourth year, while on a visit to his grandfather's house at Strathendry on the banks of the Leven, [Smith] was stolen by a passing band of gypsies, and for a time could not be found. But presently a gentleman arrived who had met a gypsy woman a few miles down the road carrying a child that was crying piteously. Scouts were immediately dispatched in the direction indicated, and they came upon the woman in Leslie wood. As soon as she saw them she threw her burden down and escaped, and the child was brought back to his mother. [Smith] would have made, I fear, a poor gypsy."
^ During the reign of Louis XIV, the population shrunk by 4 million and agricultural productivity was reduced by one-third while the taxes had increased. Cusminsky, Rosa, de Cendrero, 1967, Los Fisiócratas, Buenos Aires: Centro Editor de América Latina, p. 6
^ The 6 editions of The Theory of Moral Sentiments were published in 1759, 1761, 1767, 1774, 1781, and 1790, respectively.
^ Billington, James H. (1999). Fire in the Minds of Men: Origins of the Revolutionary Faith. Transaction Publishers. p. 302..mw-parser-output cite.citation font-style:inherit .mw-parser-output .citation q quotes:"""""""'""'" .mw-parser-output .citation .cs1-lock-free a background:url("//upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/6/65/Lock-green.svg/9px-Lock-green.svg.png")no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center .mw-parser-output .citation .cs1-lock-limited a,.mw-parser-output .citation .cs1-lock-registration a background:url("//upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/d/d6/Lock-gray-alt-2.svg/9px-Lock-gray-alt-2.svg.png")no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center .mw-parser-output .citation .cs1-lock-subscription a background:url("//upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/a/aa/Lock-red-alt-2.svg/9px-Lock-red-alt-2.svg.png")no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center .mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration color:#555 .mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription span,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration span border-bottom:1px dotted;cursor:help .mw-parser-output .cs1-ws-icon a background:url("//upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/4/4c/Wikisource-logo.svg/12px-Wikisource-logo.svg.png")no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center .mw-parser-output code.cs1-code color:inherit;background:inherit;border:inherit;padding:inherit .mw-parser-output .cs1-hidden-error display:none;font-size:100% .mw-parser-output .cs1-visible-error font-size:100% .mw-parser-output .cs1-maint display:none;color:#33aa33;margin-left:0.3em .mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration,.mw-parser-output .cs1-format font-size:95% .mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-left,.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-wl-left padding-left:0.2em .mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-right,.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-wl-right padding-right:0.2em
^ Stedman Jones, Gareth (2006). "Saint-Simon and the Liberal origins of the Socialist critique of Political Economy". In Aprile, Sylvie; Bensimon, Fabrice (eds.). La France et l’Angleterre au XIXe siècle. Échanges, représentations, comparaisons. Créaphis. pp. 21–47.
^ "Great Thinkers of the Scottish Enlightenment".
^ Sharma, Rakesh. "Adam Smith: The Father of Economics". Investopedia. Retrieved 20 February 2019.
^ "Adam Smith: Father of Capitalism". www.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 20 February 2019.
^ "Absolute Advantage – Ability to Produce More than Anyone Else". Corporate Finance Institute. Retrieved 20 February 2019.
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^ John, McMurray. "Capitalism's 'Founding Father' Often Quoted, Frequently Misconstrued". Investor.com. Retrieved 31 May 2019.
^ a b "100 Best Scottish Books, Adam Smith". Retrieved 31 January 2012.
^ a b Rae 1895, p. 1
^ Bussing-Burks 2003, pp. 38–39
^ Buchan 2006, p. 12
^ a b c Rae 1895, p. 5
^ a b c Bussing-Burks 2003, p. 39
^ Buchan 2006, p. 22
^ Bussing-Burks 2003, p. 41
^ Rae 1895, p. 24
^ a b c d Buchholz 1999, p. 12
^ Introductory Economics. New Age Publishers. p. 4. ISBN 81-224-1830-9.
^ Rae 1895, p. 22
^ Rae 1895, pp. 24–25
^ a b Bussing-Burks 2003, p. 42
^ Buchan 2006, p. 29
^ Scott, W. R. "The Never to Be Forgotten Hutcheson: Excerpts from W. R. Scott," Econ Journal Watch 8(1): 96–109, January 2011.
^ "Adam Smith". Biography. Retrieved 30 July 2019.
^ Rae 1895, p. 30
^ Smith, A. ( 1985). Lectures on
^ a b Bussing-Burks 2003, p. 43
^ Winch, Donald (September 2004). "Smith, Adam (bap. 1723, d. 1790)". Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press.
^ Rae 1895, p. 42
^ Buchholz 1999, p. 15
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^ Buchholz 1999, p. 13
^ "MyGlasgow – Archive Services – Exhibitions –
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^ Buchholz 1999, pp. 16–17
^ Buchholz 1999, p. 17
^ Smith, A., 1976,
The Wealth of Nations
^ Buchholz 1999, p. 18
^ Buchan 2006, p. 90
^ Dr James Currie to Thomas Creevey, 24 February 1793, Lpool RO, Currie MS 920 CUR
^ Buchan 2006, p. 89
^ Buchholz 1999, p. 19
^ Durant, Will; Durant, Ariel (1 July 1967). The Story of Civilization: Rousseau and Revolution. MJF Books. ISBN 1567310214.
^ Buchan 2006, p. 128
^ Buchan 2006, p. 133
^ Buchan 2006, p. 137
^ Buchan 2006, p. 145
^ a b c Bussing-Burks 2003, p. 53
^ a b Buchan 2006, p. 25
^ a b Buchan 2006, p. 88
^ Bonar, James, ed. (1894). "Adam Smith's Will". A Catalogue of the Library of Adam Smith. London: Macmillan. pp. XIV. OCLC 2320634. Retrieved 13 May 2018 – via Internet Archive.
^ Bonar 1895, pp. xx–xxiv
^ Buchan 2006, p. 11
^ Buchan 2006, p. 134
^ Rae 1895, p. 262
^ a b c Skousen 2001, p. 32
^ a b Buchholz 1999, p. 14
^ Boswell's 'Life of Samuel Johnson, 1780.
^ Ross 2010, p. 330
^ Stewart, Dugald (1853). The Works of Adam Smith: With An Account of His Life and Writings. London: Henry G. Bohn. lxix. OCLC 3226570.
^ Rae 1895, pp. 376–77
^ Bonar 1895, p. xxi
^ Ross 1995, p. 15
^ "Times obituary of Adam Smith". The Times: http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Times/1790/Obituary/Adam_Smith. 24 July 1790.
^ Coase 1976, pp. 529–46
^ a b Coase 1976, p. 538
^ Hill, L. (2001). "The hidden theology of Adam Smith". The European Journal of the History of Economic Thought. 8: 1–29. doi:10.1080/713765225.
^ "Hume on Religion". Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved 26 May 2008.
^ Eric Schliesser (2003). "The Obituary of a Vain Philosopher: Adam Smith's Reflections on Hume's Life" (PDF). Hume Studies. 29 (2): 327–62.
^ " Andrew Millar Project, University of Edinburgh". millar-project.ed.ac.uk. Retrieved 3 June 2016.
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^ Rae 1895
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