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Famous & Influential People

Over the years, many influential people have been born or brought up in the town.

Historical Figures

Adam SmithAdam Smith

Adam Smith was born in Kirkcaldy in 1723.

His father, a “comptroller of customs,” had died a few months before his birth. He graduated from Glasgow University at only 17 years of age, and then moved to Oxford to continue his studies.

He returned to Scotland, and began lecturing at Edinburgh and then Glasgow - where he later took the chair as professor of Moral Philosophy.

In 1750, he met David Hume - who became one of his best friends. Nine years later, his first book - The Theory of Moral Sentiments - brought together many of the ideas he had been lecturing on.

After travelling to Europe, he returned to Kirkcaldy to work on his most famous work - The Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. This book defined the political economy, and established modern economics as we know it today. It is considered by many to be one of the five most important books ever written.

Sandford Fleming

Sir Sandford Fleming

Born in Kirkcaldy in 1827, Sandford Fleming emigrated to Quebec, Canada, at 17 years of age.

He started work as a surveyor, and quickly rose to become one of the most important railway engineers of his time. He was put in charge of the initial plans for the Canadian Pacific Railway project - the first to cross the continent.
Fleming designed Canada’s first ever postage stamp - the first in the world to have a picture on it. The beaver featured later became the national animal of Canada.

But Sir Sandford would receive his place in history for what he did for the way we deal with time around the world. Before him, every city would set its own time according to when the sun was directly above them. This would cause confusion, as cities across the same country would be working on dozens of different times. It may have been 1pm in one city, while in the next city it was 1:13pm. Sir Sandford knew the difficulties this created in making a trans-Canadian train timetable work.

Sir Sandford proposed the idea of “time zones” - bands stretching from the north to south pole - which would leave a more limited number of times to deal with - and an easily predictable system. If you knew where a city was, you would know what time it was there.

For this idea, he is now known as the “Father of Standard Time.” Without his creation, international travel and business would be almost impossible today.
He was knighted in 1897 during Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubileeand died in 1915.

Robert Adam

Robert Adam

Robert Adam was born in Kirkcaldy, in 1728, the son of a stonemason.

At the age of 11, Robert moved to Edinburgh, where his father William became the pre-eminent architect in Scotland.
Although he attended Edinburgh University, he never graduated. This was not due to poor academic performance, but both ill health, and the 1745 Jacobite Rebellion. At University, he met Adam Smith and David Hume - key thinkers in their time.

When his father died, Robert (at 20 years of age) joined his brother in the family architectural firm - later to be known as Adam Brothers.

Adam was elected F.R.S. and F.S.A. and in 1762 was appointed architect to the king and queen. However he was obliged to resign in 1768, when he was returned to parliament as member for Kinross-shire.

Robert Adam died in 1792 at the age of 64, as one of Scotland’s most influential Architects.

John McDouall Stuart

John McDouall Stuart

Born in Dysart in 1815, John’s parents both died when he was in his early teens - leaving him to be brought up by friends and relatives.

He attended the Scottish Naval and Military Academy and graduated as a Civil Engineer.

He emigrated to South Australia just two years after the town of Adelaide had been established.

He worked as a surveyor, at first - and was quickly promoted due to the mess surveying was in at the time, and the demands made by landowners to complete the work on time.
His work began to lead him across the country, and he was soon exploring undiscovered regions of the continent. His greatest achievement was when he became the first European Explorer to cross Australia, and return in 1861-62.

He returned to Scotland 1864 and later went to London. He was awarded a Gold medal by the Royal Geographical Society in 1861 and died in 1866.



Rt Hon Dr Gordon Brown

Born in Glasgow, Gordon Brown's father became Minister of St Brycedales Church in Kirkcaldy and the family moved to the town. He was educated at Kirkcaldy High School before going on to Edinburgh University. He became MP for Dunfermline in 1983. In 1997, he became Chancellor of the Exchequer. In 2007, he became UK Prime Minister. In the boundary changes of 2005, he replaced Lewis Moonie as the candidate in the Kirkcaldy & Cowdenbeath constituency where he was the local MP until standing down in 2015.

Jack Vettriano OBE

Born in Methil, a few miles from Kirkcaldy, Jack Vettriano (originally Hoggan) became an apprentice Mining Engineer. He took up painting after his girlfriend bought him a painting set for his 21st birthday. He gained inspiration from visits to Kirkcaldy Museum & Art Gallery, and submitted his first painting at the annual local Shell art exhibition in 1984. In 1988, he began displaying his work publicly - and was quickly snapped up. Prints of his works became hugely popular. In 2010, he won Great Scot of the Year. He now splits his time between homes in Kirkcaldy, London and Nice.

Val McDermid

After attending Kirkcaldy High School, Val McDermid went on to become the first student to attend St Hilda's College, Oxford, from a Scottish state school. After graduating, she worked as a journalist and briefly as a dramatist. Her first novel was published in 1987, with her Tony Hill books forming the basis of the "Wire in the Blood" series on ITV. A committed Raith Rovers supporter, in 2010 she sponsored the North Stand at Stark's Park in honour of her father - who was a scout for the team. She is currently a Director at the club.

David Steel

Born in Kirkcaldy in 1938, David Steel attended school in Kenya between the ages of 11 and 15. He later studied Law at Edinburgh University where he graduated from in 1960.
He was first elected to Parliament in 1965 in a by-election for the constituency of Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles. Eleven years later he became leader of the Liberal Party - which he held until 1988.

Sir David became a Life Peer in 1997 and - following the creation of the Scottish Parliament - was elected as its first Presiding Officer (Speaker).

He has written a number of books, was president of the Anti-Apartheid Movement of Great Britain from 1966 to 1970 and has received numerous awards, honorary degrees and has lectured around the world.


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