The son of Mendel and Eva Slosberg Davidson was born on May 29, 1919, in Chicago, Illinois. At an early age his family moved to Michigan where he attended Flint Northern High School, graduating in 1936. He was president of the Student Council in his senior year. At the fiftieth reunion of his class in 1986, he was named as the outstanding graduate of the school.
He received both his bachelor's and master's degree from the University of Michigan in 1941 and his doctor's degree from the same institution in 1950. Initially, he was a pre-law student until he took elementary accounting from Accounting Hall of Fame member William A. Paton. While at the University of Michigan he was an instructor in economics (1946-48) and accounting (1948-49). He was on active duty in the U. S. Navy from 1942 to early 1946. He was certified as a CPA in 1951 (Maryland). For his performance on the 1951 exam, he received the Maryland Society of CPAs' award for top performance in the State, and honorable mention for the AICPA's Elijah Watt Sells Award.
He has spent much of his professional career at two fine universities--Johns Hopkins University and the University of Chicago. At Johns Hopkins he rose through the ranks of assistant professor (1949-52), associate professor (1952-56), and professor (1956-58). In 1958, he joined the faculty of the University of Chicago serving as professor of accounting until 1962, when he became director of the Institute of Professional Accounting which he helped to establish in that year. He occupied the directorship until mid-1969 when he became Dean of the Graduate School of Business; he served as dean until June 1974. During the 1974-75 academic year he was on leave as a Fellow of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences. In 1962, he was appointed the first Arthur Young Professor of Accounting (1962-84) anywhere, and in 1984 he was named the Arthur Young Distinguished Service Professor of Accounting, a distinction he holds today. He has been a visiting professor at the University of California at Berkeley (summer, 1950), London School of Economics (academic year, 1956-57), University of Hawaii (summer, 1960), Stanford University (summer, 1964), Hebrew University, Jerusalem (spring semester, 1965 and 1969), and University of Michigan (various summers). He has had a long-standing arrangement where he spends the winter quarter away from Chicago as a visiting professor at Florida Atlantic University.
He has been active in professional organizations, serving as president (1968-69), director of research (1955-56), and member of the Executive Committee (1955-56; 1967-70) of the AAA. He chaired the AAA's Committee on Accreditation of Accounting Programs (1976-78) and in 1978 he was selected as that organization's distinguished international lecturer. Other AAA appointments included membership on the Committee on Future Structure, Content and Scope of Accounting Education (1984-86), Financial Accounting Standards Committee (1974-76; chairman 1974-75), Research Advisory Committee (1965-66), Concepts and Standards Committee, the Realization Concept (1964-66; chairman 1965-66) and Joint Committee on Education (1953-54).
A past vice president (1986-87) of the AICPA, he was a member of the APB from 1965 to 1970 and a member of the AICPAs Study Group on the Objectives of Financial Statements (1971-73). Other AICPA appointments included chairman of the Research Advisory Committee on Concept of Materiality (1967-72), and member of the Commission on the Study of the Common Body of Knowledge for CPAs (1963-66), Project Advisory Committee on Research Project on Accounting for Income Taxes (1960-66), Committee on University Relations (1961-64), and Committee on Personnel (1955-56).
He has served as a trustee of the Financial Accounting Foundation (1981-83), a chartered member of the FASB's Advisory Council (1973-74), and a member of both the Task Force on Accounting for Leases (1973-74), and the Task Force on Conceptual Framework of Accounting (1978). An honorary life member (1984) of the Illinois Society of CPAs, he was a member of the Finance Committee of the American Economic Association (1982-84).
He has authored or edited fifteen books including Accounting: The Language of Business (7th ed., 1987) with Clyde P. Stickney and Roman L. Weil; Financial Accounting: An Introduction to Concepts, Methods and Uses (5th ed., 1988) with Clyde P. Stickney and Roman L. Weil; Intermediate Accounting: Concepts, Methods and Uses (4th ed., 1985) with Leon J. Hanouille, Clyde P. Stickney and Roman L. Weil; Managerial Accounting: An Introduction to Concepts, Methods and Uses (3rd ed., 1988) with Michael W. Mahr, Clyde P. Stickney and Roman L. Weil; and Studies in Accounting (3rd ed., 1977) with William T. Baxter. He edited with Roman L. Weil The Handbook of Modeern Accounting (3rd ed., 1983) and The Handbook of Cost Accounting (1978). A prolific scholar, he has written many articles for professional journals.
He is a member of the board of directors of four Fortune 500 companies and two other companies; he is the chairman of the Audit Committee of five of these companies. He has served as a consultant to a number of business firms and government agencies including the Governors Commission on Revision of the Public Service Commission Law, Maryland (1953-55), U. S. Treasury Department (1961-69), Federal Trade Commission (1975-78), and SEC (1976-77).
He was elected to Phi Beta Kappa at the University of Michigan in 1940. He also holds membership in Beta Gamma Sigma and Beta Alpha Psi. A Beta Gamma Sigma Distinguished Scholar (1979), he received the outstanding educator award of the AAA (1976) and the Illinois Society of CPAs (1985). He also received the Alpha Kappa Psi Foundation Accounting Award (1974), and in 1984 he was recognized as Accountant of the Year by Beta Alpha Psi.
He married Freda Joy Sendler on June 23, 1946; they have two children. In his leisure time he enjoys playing bridge, beach walking, and the theater. He is an avid fan of the Detroit Tigers.