Samuel Smiles


Biography of Samuel Smiles

Samuel Smiles (23 December 1812 – 16 April 1904), was a Scottish author and reformer.

Born in Haddington, East Lothian, Scotland, the son of Janet Wilson of Dalkeith and Samuel Smiles of Haddington, Smiles was one of eleven surviving children. The family was strict Cameronians, although when Smiles grew up he was not one of them. He left school at the age of 14 and was apprenticed to a doctor, an arrangement that eventually enabled Smiles to study medicine at the University of Edinburgh. His father died in the cholera epidemic of 1832, but Smiles was enabled to continue with his studies because he was supported by his mother, who kept running the family shop selling hardware, books, and such, firm in the belief that "The Lord will provide". Her example, working ceaselessly to support herself and his nine younger siblings, was a strong influence on his future life, although he developed a more benign and tolerant outlook somewhat at odds with his Cameronian forebears. While studying and after being graduated, he campaigned for parliamentary reform, contributing articles to the Edinburgh Weekly Chronicle and the Leeds Times.

Samuel married Sarah Ann Holmes Dixon in Leeds on 7 December 1843. They had three daughters, Janet, Edith, and Lillian, and two sons, William and Samuel. In his late teens, Samuel junior contracted a lung disease, and his father was advised to send him on a long sea voyage. The letters young Samuel wrote home, and the log he kept of his journey to Australia and America between February 1869 and March 1871, were later edited by his father and published in London in 1877, under the title 'A Boy's Voyage Round the World'.

Samuel senior's grandchildren include Sir Walter Smiles, an Ulster Unionist Party MP. Through this family, Samuel Smiles is also the great-great-grandfather of popular explorer Bear Grylls.

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