Nicholas Phillipson lectured in History at Edinburgh from 1965 and retired from full-time employment in 2004. He was then appointed Honorary Research Fellow. He has held visiting appointments at Princeton, Yale, Tulsa, the Folger Library, Washington DC and the Ludwigs-Maximilian Universitat, Munich.
His research interests have focussed on the cultural and intellectual history of early modern and modern Scotland with a particular interest in the history of the Scottish enlightenment. He was co-director of a Leverhulme-funded project on the Science of Man in Scotland. He was an associate editor of the New Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. He is one of the founder editors of a new journal Modern Intellectual History. He is a past president of the Eighteenth Century Scottish Studies Society. His Adam Smith; An Enlightened Life is to be published by Penguin Press in August 2010.