Louis Goldberg AO
Louis (Lou) Goldberg's contribution to the development of accounting in Australia was extremely broad encompassing accounting research, accounting education, university administration, publication, higher-degree supervision, government service, service to professional bodies and collection of artefacts. His involvement extended for nearly seventy years. For much of this long period he was at the forefront of thinking and ideas formulation in the accounting discipline. As a prolific writer he was the first Australian accounting academic to appear in the international refereed literature with his 'Funds Statement Reconsidered' which appeared in the top-ranked American Accounting Association journal The Accounting Review, October 1951. This was a prelude to a series of articles that subsequently appeared in the journal. Through these writings he established his international reputation. His most prestigious work An Inquiry into the Nature of Accounting (1965) contained a critical examination of extant accounting theory, proposed a 'commander' theory of his own together with a pioneering examination of the role of communication in accounting. Published posthumously in 2001 his remarkable A Journey into Accounting Thought was to some extent a revised version of his Inquiry (1965) containing his final thoughts on the role and future of accounting but with a greater emphasis on the balance sheet. With almost 120 sole- and jointly -authored publications and research lectures, Goldberg justified his appointment as the first full-time lecturer in accounting at an Australian university later being appointed to the G.L. Wood Chair in Accounting. In the broader field of accounting education he played an instrumental role in the creation of what is now the Accounting and Finance Association of Australia and New Zealand the umbrella body for university teachers of accounting, finance and cognate disciplines in Australia and New Zealand. To the accounting profession more generally he was an active office holder in the then Australian Society of Accountants. Lou Goldberg was an outstanding Australian accounting educator, theorist and historian whose devotion to his work continued right up to his death. It is a tribute to his scholarly longevity that many of his works and activities were published or occurred after his official retirement in 1973. Honours aplenty came his way. The University of Melbourne bestowed upon him the degree of Doctor of Letters in 1967 in recognition of his substantial, sustained and original contributions to learning. The wider academy recognised his scholarship when he was elected a Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia. His country appointed him Officer of the Order of Australia in the General Division.
The Australian Accounting Hall of Fame honours Lou Goldberg as an educator, theorist, thinker and scholar of the highest order. In so doing it acknowledges his international stature as an eminent accounting scholar of the twentieth century.
1908 - 1997
Lou Goldberg's contribution to the development of accounting in Australia spanned a period of nearly seventy years encompassing accounting education, university administration, publication, research lectures, higher degree supervision, government service, service to t professional bodies and collector of artefacts.
At the University of Melbourne, Louis Goldberg's career spanned the full gamut of university appointments. He started as a part-time tutor in accounting in 1931 before his appointment as the first full-time lecturer in accounting at an Australian university in January 1946. He was subsequently promoted to senior lecturer in 1949 and associate professor in 1957. In 1958 he was rewarded with the G.L. Wood Professor of Accounting and Head of Department of Accounting 1958–73. Lo Goldberg served as Dean of the Faculty of Economics and Commerce 1964 and as a member of the University's Central Budgets Committee (1965–71) and Standing Committee on Policy (1967–71).
In these capacities he was a key figure in the development of the accounting discipline at the University. During the 1930s and wartime years he was one of the small group of scholarly practitioners, none of whom held full-time academic positions, who developed academic accounting at the University under the leadership of A.A. (later Sir Alec) Fitzgerald (AAHoF 2010). As the first-full-time academic appointment in the accounting discipline at the University, with a handful of colleagues, he undertook an enormously heavy teaching load to provide accounting instruction to the hundreds of ex-service personnel who enrolled in the Commerce faculty in the immediate post-World War 2 period under the Commonwealth Training and Reconstruction Scheme.
When he succeeded Alec Fitzgerald to the G.L Wood chair in May 1958 he was one of only five full-time staff, who assisted by part-timers had to deal with enrolments of almost 700 students in accounting subjects. During the next 15 years through assiduous recruitment he expanded the staff to 14 full-timers, who, still aided by numerous part-time tutors, had to instruct the almost 1,000 students enrolled in accounting subjects.
One his major teaching innovations occurred in 1957 when he inaugurated Accountancy III, a seminar subject, examining advanced accounting theory and contemporary accounting problems, which went beyond both the accounting requirements of the accounting profession and the BCom regulations for an accounting 'major'. This subject subsequently formed a key element of honours and post-graduate programs in accounting. He continued to run seminars in this subject and its successors until 1987.
In the University community more generally, he played important roles in Faculty and University administration and in the provision of staff amenities through his presidency of University House.
Louis Goldberg's authorships and editorial roles were very extensive. He authored over 100 articles, chapters and pamphlets, produced nine sole-or co-authored books and monographs and wrote approximately 50 book reviews. Under his name there are also numerous miscellaneous writings, including letters to editors, commentaries on exposure drafts, forewords and obituaries. It is a tribute to his scholarly longevity that many of these works and activities were published or occurred after his official retirement in 1973. He was also editor of the 'current problems' section of the Australian Accountant and held the associate editorship of the Australian Commercial Dictionary
He delivered four lectures in the annual research lecture series associated with the Australian Society of Accountants (now CPA Australia) at the ANU (1953), University of Queensland (1954), the University of Melbourne (1958, 1969). He also delivered invited research lectures at New Delhi (S. Vaidyanath Aiyar Memorial Lecture, 1970) and Baruch College, City University of New York (Emmanuel Saxe Distinguished Lecture,1974)
Lou Goldberg was a prolific writer. Of particular note is the fact that he was the first Australian accounting academic to appear in the international refereed literature with his 'Funds Statement Reconsidered' which appeared in the top-ranked American Accounting Association journal The Accounting Review, October 1951. This was a prelude to several other articles in that would appear in the journal and establish his international reputation
His most influential books and monographs are:
The Philosophy of Accounting (1939) which had earlier won the thesis competition sponsored by the Commonwealth Institute of Accountants (now CPA Australia) to celebrate the Institute's fiftieth anniversary in 1937. This work, re-titled An Outline of Accounting in 1957 went through six editions during 1939–73 and explained financial transactions and accounting processes as a logical extension of integrated capital and income theory.
The Elements of Accounting (with V.R. Hill, 1947): Written originally as a text book for secondary schools, its quality was such that it was frequently prescribed by tertiary institutions. After three reprints, it was revised in 1958 to undergo a further three reprints.
Concepts of Depreciation (1960): A compilation of earlier research lectures and articles, plus an additional original chapter exploring various facets of the nature and treatment of depreciation in the accounting literature and in financial statements.
An Inquiry into the Nature of Accounting (1965): His most prestigious work which inter alia provided a critical examination of extant accounting theory, a proposed—'commander'—theory of his own, and a pioneering examination of the role of communication in accounting.
The Florescent Decade: Accounting Education in Australia 1945–1955 (1981): A record of the development of accounting education in Australia in the expansive post-World War 2 period.
An Introduction to Accounting Method (with S.A. Leech, 1984): An extension of his earlier introductory texts to incorporate computer-based accounting systems.
Dynamics of an Entity: The History of the Accounting Association of Australia and New Zealand (1987): A history of the AAANZ (now AFAANZ), the representative boy of academics teaching and researching in accounting, finance and cognate disciplines, and a body in which Goldberg himself played an important role in its early days.
A Journey into Accounting Thought (ed. S.A. Leech, 2001): Published posthumously, this remarkable work is to some extent a revised version of his Inquiry (1965), containing his final thoughts on the role and future of accounting and differing from its predecessor by its greater emphasis on the balance sheet. This volume has subsequently been translated, for use, into Japanese.
Overall, his various writings and lectures can be classified into three main groups: accounting education, accounting theory and accounting history. In the first category his early Outline and Elements plus numerous articles, were valuable teaching and reference resources for at least two generations of students grappling with accounting concepts, records and reports. His later Introduction to Accounting Method co-authored with Stewart Leech, kept these introductory ideas relevant with their extension to computer-based accounting records. At a more advanced level, his role as editor and/or contributor to Fitzgerald's Accounting in its various guises and Accounting: Communication and Control, among other publications, meant that more-advanced students also benefited from his penetrating thinking and lucid explanations.
As previously indicated, as a theorist his major contributions are found in Concepts of Depreciation, An Inquiry into the Nature of Accounting with his posthumous Journey into Accounting Thought providing a wonderful coda to a career devoted to exploring the history, theory and problems of accounting.
Commencing with his enrolment in the BCom in 1926—as one of the second intake into the degree—and his subsequent part-time then full-time positions at Melbourne and elsewhere, he was witness to, and participant in, the growth and maturity of accounting as a university discipline in Australia. With this background, he was perfectly placed to chronicle the evolution of the discipline and its teaching, research and collegiate activity in his seminal Florescent Decade and History of an Entity. His extensive collection of early accounting works were also the inspiration for several biographies of early accounting figures, particularly the enigmatic John Scouller, the author of what was considered to be the first work on accounting published in Australia.
An exemplary researcher, he also encouraged the research interests of his younger colleagues. He supervised the first two PhD theses in accounting awarded by the University in 1973. He had taken out his own MCom in 1939 for his Outline of Accounting and was involved in the supervision of a further seven MCom theses in accounting topics.
Although he did not satisfy the medical requirements for active service in World War 2, he contributed his extensive accounting skills and experience to the civilian administration of the war effort as Officer-in-Charge of Financial Estimates and War Programmes, Department of the Air, during 1941–46.
Louis Goldberg also undertook a wide range of other roles and responsibilities, including:
- Australian Association of University Teachers of Accounting (now AFAANZ): Playing an instrumental role in negotiations in the late 1950s which lead to this body's formation in 1960. He was its president in 1962 and a Committee member during 1960–64.
- Australian Society of Accountants (now CPA Australia): Victorian divisional councillor 1958–65, during which he served at various times on the Association's Accounting Research, Company Law Revision, Investigations, and Executive committees.
- State College of Victoria: council member 1973–83.
- Visiting Professorships: University of Auckland (1967); University of Florida (1970); Western Australia Institute of Technology (1977); Caulfield Institute of Technology (1978), David Syme School of Accounting (Monash University) (1993–95).
- Australian Accounting Research Foundation: member Accounting and Auditing Research Committee, 1965–72.
Another aspect of Louis Goldberg's commitment to accounting was his role as collector of historical works in the discipline, particularly those published in Australia. In the course of his career he accumulated over 3,000 books, pamphlets and periodicals, including some of great historical significance. Prior to his death he gifted his library to Deakin University and it now constitutes the Louis Goldberg Collection at the Geelong Waterfront Campus Library of Deakin University.
A career such as that of Lou Goldberg rarely goes unrecognised. Goldberg's career is no exception. Among the honours, awards and other forms of recognition bestowed were:
- A Rockefeller Foundation Travelling Fellowship, 1955
- A Fulbright Travel Award, 1963
- Awarded the degree of Doctor of Letters (for substantial, sustained and original contributions to learning) by the University of Melbourne in 1967.
- Publication in 1965 of his An Inquiry into the Nature of Accounting, by the American Accounting Association as the seventh work in its Monograph Series, reserved for works of outstanding merit.
- A festschrift, Essays in Honour of Louis Goldberg, edited by J.StG. Kerr and R.C. Clift, Department of Accounting and Business Law, University of Melbourne, published in his honour in 1989.
- Awarded Life memberships by the Accounting Association of Australia and New Zealand (now AFAANZ) and the Academy of Accounting Historians.
Of particular note is that Lou Goldberg was elected to Membership of the prestigious Australian Academy of the Social Sciences establishing him firmly in the pantheon of thinkers and theorists in the social sciences. His appointment as an Officer in the Order of Australia in 1987 cemented further his reputation and added lustre to an already glittering contribution to the accounting discipline.