The first true written evidence of accounting come from a man named Luca Pacioli, a Franciscan monk and contemporary of Columbus. His seminal work, Summa de Arithmetica, Geometrica, Propotioni et Proportionalite, published in 1494, contained a section, “Particularis de Computis et Scripturis” (Details of Accounting and Recording) that described “the system used in Venice”.
But history aside, there are many famous folks today who started out in accounting. You’ll find a few surprises on this list.
1. John Grisham. While this red-hot novelist is well known for being a lawyer prior to his writing career, what is less well known is the fact that his first degree was in Accounting from Mississippi State University. It wasn’t until later that he went to law school and watched a 12-year-old rape victim testify and inspire his first novel.
2. Kenny G. The famous soprano saxophone player graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of Washington with a degree in accounting. Although he’d already been playing semi-professionally since high school, he wasn’t sure he’d make in the music world so accounting seemed like a much safer bet.
3. Bob Newhart. This funny man got his first job out of the army working as an accountant in downtown Chicago. He claims to have invented his own system for balancing the petty cash—when the drawer was short, he replaced any missing money from his own pocket. When his boss accused him of not using sound accounting practices, he decided to try something else. Ironically, it was while he was working as an accountant that he began doing his famous telephone routines.
4. Gibby Haynes. It might be hard to believe, but this outrageous lead singer of the hot punk band The Butthole Surfers went to Trinity University and earned his degree in accounting. In fact, he was captain of the basketball team, president of his fraternity, and was voted Accounting Student of the Year. After graduating, he worked for over a year at an accounting firm before starting the band.
5. Tim DuBois. You might not know this name right off the bat, but he’s known as The Singing Accountant. He’s written many a hit country song, including “Love In The First Degree”, “She Got the Goldmine, I Got The Shaft” and the Vince Gill hit “When I Call Your Name.” While currently the head of Arista Records, he taught accounting at Owen University for many years.
6. Walter Diemer. Another name you might not recognize, he worked as an accountant for the Fleer Corporation in the 1920’s. But in his spare time he tinkered with recipes until he invented a little something we know today as Bubble Gum.
7. J. P. Morgan. This famous financier and banker began his early career as an accountant on Wall Street. But after his father died and left him the family business, J.P. Morgan went on to become a banking and corporate pioneer. He began buying distressed businesses, in particular railroads, and merging them—a common business practice still today.
8. Walter L. Morgan. A name well known in the business world, Walter L. Morgan was a CPA—and is considered the father of the mutual fund industry. His fund—The Wellington Fund—became the flagship fund of the Vanguard Group, the second largest mutual fund company in the world. When he died in 2000 at the age of 102, he was the oldest living accountant and CPA.
9. Arthur Blank. Today best known for owning the Atlanta Falcons football team, he started his early career as an accountant. But he worked part-time in a hardware store and along with another employee went on to found Home Depot, the famous chain of hardware stores. This little company made him a billionaire—and his accounting know-how taught him how to spend it.
10. Josiah Wedgewood. Yes, that Wedgewood, the famous potter—he invented what we now call Cost Accounting. Thanks to a lucky combination of an embezzling clerk and a depression, Josiah was forced to come up with a system of tracking bottom line costs and profit. He used this system to determine the costs of his product, and was only one of hundreds of potters to survive the depression.
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