Adam Ferguson, sometimes known as "Ferguson of Raith", lived from 20 June 1723 to 22 February 1816. He was a moral philosopher and a historian. The wider picture in Scotland at the time is set out in our Historical Timeline.
Adam Ferguson was born at Logierait in Perthshire and educated at Perth Grammar School before becoming a student at the University of St Andrews, where he studied to become a church minister. In 1745 he joined the army and, largely thanks to his fluency in Gaelic, was appointed deputy chaplain to the 42nd Highland Regiment of Foot, the Black Watch. Ferguson was present at the Battle of Fontenoy, fought on 11 May 1745 in what is now Belgium between an Anglo-Dutch-Hanoverian army and the French. Fergus became the regiment's principal chaplain the following year, and stayed in the army until 1754.
Ferguson then spent some time living in Leipzig. In early 1757 he followed David Hume in the post of librarian to the Faculty of Advocates, but gave this up when offered the chance to become the private tutor to the family of the Earl of Bute. In 1759 Ferguson was made Professor of Natural Philosophy at the University of Edinburgh. Five years later, in 1764, he became Professor of Mental and Moral Philosophy at the University. In 1767, Fergus published his influential Essay on the History of Civil Society. During the 1770s he travelled widely on the continent and met many of his European contemporaries, including Voltaire.
In 1778 Ferguson became secretary to the Carlisle Commission which sought unsuccessfully to bring the American War of Independence to a negotiated end. He published his best known historical work, History of the Progress and Termination of the Roman Republic, in 1783. He resigned from the University of Edinburgh in 1785 and in 1792 published his major philosophical work, The Principles of Moral and Political Science. At the age of 70, Ferguson embarked on another tour of Europe. He died in St Andrews in 1816 at the age of 92.