Raymond J. Chambers 1917-1999
Raymond J. Chambers, a leading authority on financial reporting, died in his native Australia on September 13.
From 1953 until his retirement in 1982, Chambers was a professor of accounting at the University of Sydney. During those years, he devised a new financial reporting concept, “continuously contemporary accounting” (CoCoA), and won international recognition for his published work on it.
Chambers also was the founding editor of Abacus, a leading international journal of accounting, where he remained an active editorial consultant until his death. He published more than two dozen books and monographs, including An Accounting Thesaurus—500 Years of Accounting (Reed Elsevier, 1996). This work reflects his interest in law, science, history and other related disciplines to which he believed accounting is intrinsically linked.
At the outset of his teaching career, Chambers had already amassed considerable marketplace experience. And so he was acutely aware of, and focused his attention on, exposing and reconciling discrepancies between the accounting profession’s theoretical ideals and their actual application in the business world.
The first to benefit from Chambers’ efforts were his students at the University of Sydney. About accounting education at the time, he said, “The standard textbooks and curriculum foist on [students] a peculiar and inbred dogma, rather than invite them to explore what is considered reliable knowledge in other fields or what they can see for themselves if they only look. The accountants of the 21st century deserve better than that.” To expand the intellectual and practical foundation on which students based their understanding of accounting, Chambers developed new courses and literature.
As the body of his published work grew, so too did the renown of CoCoA, his theory that financial statements should be based on the current selling price of an asset as opposed to its historical cost basis, which he considered artificial and unreliable.
In 1966, Chambers worked for a time in the AICPA accounting research division where Paul Rosenfield, then director of accounting standards, met him. Rosenfield recently commented on the significance of his contribution to the profession: “Ray Chambers was an outstanding thinker in financial reporting and had one of the most extensive bodies of writing in this area.”
In 1978, Chambers was elected national president of the Australian Society of CPAs. In 1991, he was admitted to the Accounting Hall of Fame and was named the American Accounting Association’s Outstanding Accounting Educator.