Robert Adam was born in 1728, the son of a stonemason, in Kircaldy, Fife. At the age of 11 he moved to Edinburgh with his father William who became the foremost architect in Scotland. Although he attended Edinburgh University, Robert never graduate owing to the problem of illness and the 1745 Jacobite rebellion. Robert's father died when he was just 20 and he joined his three brothers in the family architectural firm, which then became known as Adam Brothers.
In common with many young men of his time Robert embarked on 'The Grand Tour' around the great cultural sites of Italy and France where he developed his drafting and drawing skills by studying ancient Roman buildings. On his return he moved to London where the Palladian movement was reviving interest in classical architecture. Adam set up shop as a practising architect and soon became the most fashionable architect of London high-society. However, Robert developed his own neo-classical style of elegant lines that were not restricted by classical proportions. Where the Palladians copied the past, Robert Adam innovated to produce a body of work that is among the all-time architectural greats. One of his earliest surviving works is Admiralty Arch in Whitehall.
Adam proceeded to include Italian Baroque, Etruscan, Greek and Byzantine influences in his work but he went beyond the traditional architect's role by designing everything himself down to the tiniest interior detail. This resulted in designs that had an overall sense of unity.
Robert Adam died in 1792 at the age of 64.