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Alexander McCall Smith

Caroline Walsh
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Sophia Hadjipateras
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Alexander McCall Smith CBE was born in Zimbabwe in 1948 and educated there and in Scotland. He enjoyed a distinguished career as Professor of Medical Law at Edinburgh University, and it was in this role that he first returned to Africa to work in Botswana and Swaziland. In 2005, he left the University to concentrate on his writing and he is now the author of over a hundred books.

In 1998 The No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency was published. Its heroine, Precious Ramotswe, soon captivated readers and the series has now sold over twenty million copies in the English language alone. Anthony Minghella adapted the book for television with Richard Curtis and it appeared on BBC1 in 2008 to great acclaim. HBO and the BBC commissioned further episodes, screened in 2009. A new book is added to the series every year which now has a worldwide following.  It has also been dramatised by the author for Radio 4.

His popular series, 44 Scotland Street runs as a daily serial in The Scotsman and is now the longest running serial in the world. In 2008 his first online novel, Corduroy Mansions, began on the Daily Telegraph’s website. Other popular series written by Alexander McCall Smith include the Isabel Dalhousie and the Sunday Philosophy Club series, the Detective Varg series and the Von Igelfeld series, as well as a variety of titles for children.

Winner of three Author of the Year awards in 2004, Alexander McCall Smith has served as Vice-Chairman of the Human Genetics Commission of the UK; a member of the International Bioethics Commission of UNESCO; Chairman of the Ethics Committee of the British Medical Journal and Chairman of the Ethics Committee of the Roslin Institute.

In 2007 he received a CBE for services to literature and in 2011 was honoured by the President of Botswana with the Presidential Order of Merit for services through literature to the country. He has received Lifetime Achievement awards from the Saltire Society and Strang Magazine, was awarded a Medal of Honour for Achievement in Literature from the National Arts Club of America.

He was awarded a knighthood for services to literature, academia and charity in 2024.

Photograph © Kirsty Anderson


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