François Quesnay

1694 (Merey, France) – 1774 (Versailles)

Quesnay was among the first to apply analytic principles to economic thought, and was an important precursor to the subsequent generation of classical economists. His role as surgeon to the king’s mistress (in a generally despotic court) gave him a privileged position, his rooms a sanctuary for the circle of free-thinkers he gathered around him. These included Diderot and d’Alembert (a real friend — Quesnay was also a very competent mathematician), Buffon, Helvétius, Marmontel and Quesnay’s student Turgot. Hume visited him, as did Smith, who got to know him well (and credited him in ‘The Wealth of Nations’).