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Smiles, Samuel

SMILES, SAMUEL (1812-1904), British author, was born at Haddington, Scotland, on the 23rd of December 1812. He was the eldest of eleven children left, on their father's death, to be supported by their mother on slender means. To her spirit and example must be attributed some of the enthusiasm for selfreliance and self-education, that was later embodied in Dr Smiles's writings and led to their popularity and influence. Educated at the Haddington Grammar School and at Edinburgh University, where he studied medicine and graduated in 1832, Smiles tried, unsuccessfully, to practise in his native village among 3000 healthy Scotsmen and in competition with seven other doctors. He added to his income by lecturing on chemistry and by writing for the press, and, finally abandoning the medical profession, he confined himself to journalism, and from 1838 till 1844 edited the weekly Leeds Times. Though he gave up regular journalism in 1844, he continued to be a frequent contributor to periodicals. From 1845 till 1854 he was secretary of the Leeds and Thirsk railway, and from 1854 till 1866 of the South Eastern railway. During his residence in Leeds he had opportunities of studying the characters of the remarkable men whose biographies he afterwards wrote. Here he came in contact with George Stephenson, whose Life by him, published in 1857, passed through five editions in its first year and was the precursor -bf a series of biographies of leaders in the world of industry, such as Lives of the Engineers (3 vols., 1861-1862), Industrial Biography (1863), James Brindley and the Early Engineers (1864), Lives of Boulton and Watt (1865), Life of Thomas Telford (1867), The Life of a Scotch Naturalist (Thomas Edward) (1876), Robert Dick (1878), George Moore (1878), Men of Invention and Industry (1884), Life and Labour (1887), A Publisher and his Friends (a history of the house of John Murray) (1891), Jasmin (1891), Josiah Wedgwood (1894). In 1859 had appeared his most successful book, Self -Help, a volume of popular ethics; 20,000 copies were sold the first year, and by 1889 the sales had reached 150,000 copies, while the book had been translated into 17 languages. Its success suggested others of similar purpose, like Character (1871), Thrift (1875), Duty (1880). Smiles also published two works dealing with the history of the Huguenots and a History of Ireland. His works are not only admirable for their simple and yet forcible style, but for the many useful and practical lessons which they enforce. Wholesome and stimulating, their whole tendency is to inculcate sound principles of life and the building up of manly and upright character. Dr Smiles was made hon. LL.D. of Edinburgh University in 1878, and in 1897 received from the king of Servia the Cross of Knight Commander of the Order of St Sava. He died in Kensington in his ninety-second year, on the 16th of April 1904. His Autobiography was edited (1905) by T. Mackay.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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