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6 Ways Accountants Changed The World

Accountants change the world

International Accountants Day is celebrated every November 10th, and we wanted to acknowledge it by listing ways in which the profession has impacted the world.

Firstly, why November the 10th?

On November 10th, 1494, Venetian mathematician Luca Bartolomeo de Pacioli published an unprecedented look at bookkeeping practices.

This leads us onto our first example...

Al Capone is taken down by Tax

De Pacioli’s system of recording company transactions still, to this day, underpins all financial statements. If were to single out a historical moment it impacted then we’d pinpoint the imprisonment of Al Capone. 

In 1931, he was found guilty of evasion for not paying taxes on his ill-gotten wealth. Only accurate financial statements could have provided evidence to sentence the world famous gangster.

Luca de Pacioli’s work became the foundation for more essays on accounting which led to his title as “The Father of Accounting.”

The modern age is born

Without the evolution of banking and accounting the Industrial Revolution could not have developed at the rate it did in the 1700s. The increasing demands of entrepreneurs in industries like steam led to a huge expansion of the financial system.

Prior to 1750 gold and silver were preferred for major transactions, and copper for daily trading. There were banks already in existence, but only in limited numbers.

The Industrial Revolution in the UK brought significant social changes. Industrialization increased the population and led to urbanization, resulting in the formation of modern towns and cities we see today.

Mick Jagger

Legendary ‘Dinosaur hips’ did indeed train to be an accountant.

According to sources, Jagger studied accounting and finance at the London School of Economics. However, his accountancy journey was cut short after crossing paths with a certain...Keef.

Their inventive re-interpretation of American blues music caused them to be recognised as pioneers of early rock and roll.

With classic albumns such as like Exile on Mainstreet, and record breaking mega-tours that continue to break records, it’s easy to see their influence on the world of pop culture.

So, technically Mick did not change the world with his accounting skill. However, he did train to be an accountant, and he did change the world – just separately.

America win the war of independence & George Washington publishes his accounts

During the American War of Independence (1775 – 1783), George Washington - the first US president, published his personal accounts. This was in response to his enemies, who accused him of profiteering

A rich farmer, Washington’s accounts revealed his enjoyment of the finer things of life:  wine, luxurious clothes and expensive food. 

Publishing this information was risky and threatened to undermine his position in wartime. To avoid criticism, and potentially boosted morale, however, he refused to accept a salary as commander-in-chief of the army.

He then led the Americans to fight off the British, and became the republic’s first elected president.

The enrichment of Holland in the 16th century

By the early 16th century, the Netherlands was the richest European province of the Spanish Empire. As their economy grew, accounting became a central element of Dutch education.

Strong trust between government, businesses, and people developed from consistently good financial management. That gave the Dutch the faith to take massive financial risks, investing in stocks and ships that traded around the world.

Accounting knowledge wipes British debt in the 1720s

Sir Robert Walpole, arguably our first prime minister, was a brilliant accountant and used his knowledge to save financial markets when the South Sea Company scheme collapsed in the 1720s.

As first lord of the Treasury, Walpole negotiated a bailout involving the Bank of England. He reduced national debt at a time when public confidence had plummeted and businesses faced ruin.

How are you going to change the world?

Accountants continue to be the cornerstone of society – across the world. The opportunity for the profession to influence world affairs remains. 

Kaplan also has a rich history, and can trace its roots back to the very beginning of accountancy training in the UK. To learn more about the qualifications available visit our accountancy qualifications page.

Thanks to Kaplan’s Head of Learning Stuart Pedley-Smith, and John Bennett for their contributions.