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Luca Pacioli and Leonardo DaVinci – Domestic Partnership of Genius
Luca Pacioli and Leonardo DaVinci – Renaissance men – were both mathematical geniuses. Leonardo was more inclined to military engineering, while Luca to abstract and pure mathematics. When Pacioli included “Tenia of double-entry books” in his textbook, Sum of Arithmeticwhich he published in 1494 (two years after Christopher Columbus landed in Santo Domingo), little did he know that it would change the world.
Leonardo Da Vinci and a monk named Luca Pacioli, the inventor of accounting (debits and credits), lived together for many years. Luca’s math textbook contained the basics accountants follow today: assets equal liabilities plus owner’s equity (A=L + OE).
Both university professors traveled together and stayed together at different universities.
Sigmund Freud, in his study of Leonardo’s homosexuality, ignored this fact. This is a shame because Freud would have provided factual evidence rather than wild speculation based on his psychoanalytic techniques. Leonardo, being much younger than Luca, has always been described as Luca’s protégé.
Today, with the perspective of time, we can understand that they probably had some kind of domestic partner. In 1495 they lived together in Milan and Venice. It has been well documented by art historians that Leonardo was summoned to court to address the charges of homosexuality against him. But since the accuser did not come forward, the charges were later dropped.
The diagrams and figures seen in Luca’a Summa were DaVinci’a drawings. They worked together as equal partners instead of the master-apprentice relationships of the time.
Billions of human beings have populated the earth, most of them living in the shadows of survival and mediocrity, it is the oddballs, weirdos and eccentrics who make the most valuable contributions to the betterment of the human condition. These two eccentrics made tangible contributions to humanity.
Although Leonardo’s achievements have been well documented and documented in our times, even Bill Gates could not resist owning Leonardo’s original manuscripts, Luca’s contributions are less well known. Like our American composer Aaron Copland, I will make a fanfare for the common man: Luca with his ingenious explanation of the double-entry bookkeeping system made international trade possible, opening the doors to what we now call “The global economy”.
Businesses were no longer confined within borders, as banks, financial institutions, entrepreneurs, and corporations traded, exchanged, and profited across borders. Standardization of financial statements followed, so that balance sheets, income statements and cash flows are read and interpreted without major impediments across Europe.
With capital formation in full swing, the necessary capital for factories became available, thus fostering the advent of the European Industrial Revolution. In 1750 Europe was already industrialized and in 1860 (after the Civil War) America became an industrial power.
Yes, it was a leap of imagination to design Debits (left side) and Credits (right side) as an information system. Write the assets on the left side of the equation and the claims on those assets on the right side.
In more than ten thousand years of recorded history, no one in the human race had attempted to keep business records by double entry. The Babylonians, Phoenicians, Persians, Egyptians, Greeks, Romans and other ancient civilizations recorded their transactions in cash and with a single entry; that is, businessmen made lists of items bought and sold.
As a result, businesses remained small businesses, doomed to remain small as the lack of an orderly system prevented growth. Whether on papyri, sheepskin scrolls, or bricks, all business records were endless enumerations and catalogs, offering little discernment in the measurements of profit or loss.
Pacioli changed all that.
To think that a humble discovery like double-entry bookkeeping can change the fate of the human race defies credibility. But since double entry allows for not only an orderly classification of accounts, journals and ledgers, but also measurements of liquidity and profitability, it is not surprising that capitalism flourished.
In economic systems where capitalism predominates, companies — being the main employers — offer medical coverage and retirement plans, men and women can now enjoy the latest technologies and thus live longer and in good health .
One can imagine Luca and Leonardo discussing symmetries, contrasts, dichotomies, dualities, binary oppositions, polarities, antitheses, and other opposites:
“Physical nature exhibits all these dualities: day and night, narrow and wide, fast and slow,” said Luca, “and so does human nature.”
“We carry good and evil, love and hate, in our spirits and bodies, or as Heraclitus liked to say: ‘the way up is the way down, the narrow and the broad,'” he replied Leonardo.
“And Ecclesiastes, Leonardo, did he not say…?
a time to be born and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to uproot; a time to kill and a time to heal; a time to pull down and a time to build up; a time to cry and a time to laugh; mourning time and dancing time;…
Observing these folded as a system of knowledge allowed Luca to expand it into the accounting equation where what is on the left must equal what is on the right (Assets = Liabilities + Equity of the owner). Later, accountants realized that another duality was needed: income, which is increases in equity, and expenses; the difference is nothing but gains or losses.
With debits and credits fairly established as a system of order, writers such as Descartes, Cervantes, Shakespeare, and Dickens imposed it on literature and philosophy through antithesis.
Descartes cogito ergo sumit is the synthesis of a duality: mind and body.
AA Tale of Two Cities Dickens opens his novel with a detailed set of antitheses:
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of madness, it was the age of belief, it was the age of disbelief, it was the season of Light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going straight to heaven , we were all going straight to the other side…
Although philosophers such as Hegel and Karl Marx tried to discard the duality system by replacing it with a triad: thesis, antithesis, synthesis. They failed; and we can understand why: Hegel professed the power of the State, while Marx was a communist. By now we know the chaotic results of Nazism and Communism.
The natural tendency is duality as demonstrated by the second law of thermodynamics: order and chaos (entropy). Although nature tends towards chaos, human nature imposes order; the mind invents patterns of understanding.
The double-entry bookkeeping system is a triumph of the mind over the chaotic activities of humans engaged in commerce. The Double Entry not only generated a new economic system, but also the emergence of a new way of thinking: modernity. And modernity swept away the mists of superstition, monsters, magic, witches, ogres, dwarfs, giants, miracles, chimeras, unicorns, centaurs, mermaids and other impossible figures of the supernatural.
The Middle Ages and feudalism gave way to modern times.
Luca Pacioli’s legacy — the accounting system — to the business world is order. It contains: Balance, fullness and radiance, because its system fits with Democracy, with Freedom for the entrepreneur; a system that matches Adam Smith’s pillars of capitalism: laissez-faire (free market economics), competition (the invisible hand), and the division of labor (the innate human propensity that creates wealth for all).
This is my fanfare to the common man, the humble monk: Luca Pacioli
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