Luca Pacioli: the Father of Accounting Education

Luca Pacioli: the Father of Accounting Education

Sangster, Alan (Middlesex University Business School, London, UK)

Scataglini Belghitar, Giovanna (Balliol College, University of Oxford, UK)

Accounting Education, Volume 19, Issue 4 (2010)


Luca Pacioli, was a Franciscan friar born in Borgo San Sepolcro in what is now Northern Italy in 1446 or 1447. It is believed that he died in the same town on 19th June 1517. He is best remembered for his 615-page mathematical compendium, Summa de Arithmetica Geometria Proportioni et Proportionalità, published in 1494; and for his friendship with Leonardo da Vinci. Many accountants perceive his greatest contribution as being the 27-page treatise on double entry bookkeeping and business contained within his Summa. Today, we still teach double entry bookkeeping following the principles set down by Pacioli and all manual and computerised accounting systems owe much of their processing logic to the principles and processes he described. However, there is another aspect to this treatise that has been largely overlooked: in it, Pacioli set down not only the principles of double entry bookkeeping but also presented an approach to teaching the subject that is unique and largely forgotten. This paper considers Pacioli’s pedagogic approach within the educational environment in which he worked. It concludes that Luca Pacioli was a man of pedagogic insight and expertise who knew how to pitch his presentation so as to engage his students and maximise their likelihood of learning and understanding the material he presents using techniques that, even today, would be considered innovative. In doing so, he brings a subject (double entry bookkeeping) to life that is in sharp contrast to the abstract and often meaningless (in terms of context) way in which it is often taught today.

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