I was very sad to learn that Nicholas Phillips has passed away. Philipson was a magnificent historian of the so-called Scottish Enlightenment. He wrote a brilliant book on David Hume (The Philosopher as Historian) and a masterpiece biography of Adam Smith, Adam Smith: An Enlightened Life. When I read the book, I was impressed by the author’s scholarship no less than by his terse writing style. Phillipson’s book is essential reading on Smith, filled with insights, and greatly helps both students of the history of ideas and lay readers.


I met Phillipson in 2011 when I invited him to take part in the “Mises Seminar” we organise every other year at Istituto Bruno Leoni. The seminar was and is structured around papers given by graduate students and young scholars, with senior academics in the role of discussants. He was meant to discuss a paper on Adam Smith, but unfortunately the paper giver cancelled at the last minute. The seminar takes place in Sestri Levante, a very pleasant little town in the Italian Riviera. Phillipson did spend some time exploring the town, but he attended most of the sessions, providing lively comments to the various papers and befriending quite a few of the participants. I remember a nice man with a splendid sense of humour, besides being a great scholar. He’ll be missed.