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Richard Mattessich (known by many as Ricco) was born on August 9, 1922 in Trieste, and died on September 30, 2019 in Vancouver. Trieste had just been annexed by Italy after the dissolution of Austro-Hungarian Empire. He grew up in Vienna, and in 1940 he graduated as a Mechanical Engineer (a secondary school degree). In 1944 he completed his studies summa cum laude as a Diplom-Kaufmann (a graduate in business) from the Hochschule für Welthandel, today the Wirtschaftsuniversität Wien (Vienna University of Economics and Business). A year later, he was awarded the degree Doktor der Wirtschaftswissenschaft (Dr.rer. pol. – doctor of economic sciences) magna cum laude from the same institution.
From 1945 to 1947, Ricco held a research post at the Austrian Institute of Economic Research, Vienna, and then for five years a teaching position in commerce at the Institut auf dem Rosenberg in St. Gallen, Switzerland. After marrying his beloved Hermi in 1952, he emigrated to Canada, where, after working for a year at an insurance company in Montréal, he spent five years at Mount Allison University, New Brunswick, where he became professor of commerce and economics. From 1958 to 1967, following one year in a visiting position, he served as a tenured associate professor in the School of Business Administration at the University of California, Berkeley. From 1966 to 1967, he simltaneously held a chair in economics at the Ruhr-Universität Bochum, in Germany, but left to become professor of accounting at the University of British Columbia, occupying the Arthur Andersen & Co. Chair during the final seven years, and becoming emeritus in 1987. Along the way, he received a great many awards and distinctions, including four honorary doctorates, and was a visiting professor at universities in Austria, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Spain, and Switzerland. He held Italian citizenship from birth to 1970, when he acquired Canadian citizenship; in 1976, he also acquired Austrian (dual) citizenship.
Over a career spanning over sixty years, Ricco wrote or edited some twenty books and wrote more than sixty contributions to books and proceedings and in excess of a hundred journal articles, many of which have plumbed the foundations of accounting theory and the accounting discipline. His immense output of scholarly research, in German and English, has been nothing less than phenomenal in their breadth and depth. Among his most notable works in English have been “The Constellation of Accountancy and Economics” (1956), “Towards a General and Axiomatic Foundation of Accountancy” (1957); his epic treatise, Accounting and Analytical Methods (1964); “Methodological Preconditions and Problems of a General Theory of Accounting” (1972); Critique of Accounting (1995); and Two Hundred Years of Accounting Research (2008), which surveyed personalities, ideas and publications in twenty countries. In Accounting and Analytical Methods and its companion book, Simulation of the Firm through a Computer Program (also 1964), Ricco anticipated by almost two decades the creation of computerized spread sheets (which became popular only after the advent of micro- and desk-top computers in the 1980’s). Numerous of his writings have been translated into other languages.
Ricco’s leanings have mostly been philosophical, historical and comparative – qualities which are amply on display in so many of his important writings.
Hermi, his wife of sixty years, died on December 4, 2012 after a long illness.
Stephen A. Zeff