David Hume, born in Edinburgh in the Lawnmarket in 1711, was a philosopher, essayist, economist and historian. His best known philosophical work, A Treatise on Human Nature, influenced Adam Smith and his contemporaries in the Scottish Enlightenment period as well as Schopenhauer, Einstein, and Immanuel Kant. The ideas in the book are still regarded today as a cornerstone of economic and sociological thought.
Yet on its release, the book was a flop. Critics said it was disordered and unclear and only became well known when his History of England became a smash hit. Despite this, Hume was still not given the recognition he truly deserved, being overlooked for top university positions because he was considered an atheist.
Hume is commemorated in Edinburgh, not only in his ‘simple little Roman tomb’ as requested in the old Calton Hill cemetery, but also in North St David Street – the site of his home – and a statue on the Royal Mile where his big toe is regularly rubbed shiny by visitors and locals.