Biography of accounting pioneer win prestigious award

13 November 2019
Story of Professor Ray Chambers distributed worldwide
A 20-year effort to save the correspondence of Australian accounting pioneer Professor Raymond Chambers has been recognised with a prestigious award for the Business School's Emeritus Professor Graeme Dean.

Raymond Chambers, an academic who worked at the University of Sydney from 1953 to 1999, has been described as one of the 20th century's greatest thinkers in the field of accounting.

Chambers was a pioneer worldwide in the teaching of accounting at a tertiary level and worked throughout his long career to bring about "evidence-based reform to financial reporting and accounting practice."

A biography of Chambers by alumni Professor Graeme Dean and Honorary Professor Frank Clarke, and Professor Martin Persson (University of Illinois), published in 2018, has now received the Australian Society of Archivist's Mander Jones award for the "best publication that uses or interprets Australian Archive material."

The biography is based on Chambers' extensive library of books, papers and more than 15,000 letters archived at the University of Sydney.

G. Stanley Kendrick and Emeritus Professor Raymond Chambers

G. Stanley Kendrick and Emeritus Professor Raymond Chambers, Courtesy of the University of Sydney Archives, 1984 [G77_2_0119]

Professor Dean, the biography's principal author, says that with the funding support of the University of Sydney Accounting Foundation and the forerunner to the Business School, the Faculty of Economics and Business, he rescued the archive from destruction in the 1990s and then spent 20 years sorting, cataloguing, indexing and digitising Chambers' extensive records.

The resulting biography has been described as a "sympathetic portrait of one of the outstanding accounting thinkers of the twentieth century."

"Chambers was a pioneer in the 'decision-usefulness' movement and in the accounting lessons to be learned from the study of corporate failures," said Professor Dean. "Many of the corporate failures provided stark evidence of the need for reform in accounting practices and are as relevant today as they were 50 years ago."

The Australian Society of Archivists is the peak professional body for archivists and was formed in response to the growth of archival, recordkeeping and heritage preservation services.

The award citation presented to Professor Dean noted the Chambers Biography was a well-researched scholarly work which demonstrated an extensive use and interpretation of a little known archival collection.

"The use of the personal archive of Professor Ray Chambers, the foundation Professor of Accounting at the University of Sydney, enables the authors to present Chambers' own voice and comments on his experiences and the development of accounting in Australia," the citation continued.

The Chambers Biography is now available in more than 200 university libraries around the world.

The Dean of the University of Sydney Business School, Professor Greg Whitwell, has offered his "sincere congratulations" to the authors on their award.