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Nixon, Sir Edwin Van-der-vord (1876–1955)

by Ian Castles

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (MUP), 2000

Sir Edwin Van-der-vord Nixon (1876-1955), accountant, was born on 31 March 1876 at St Hélier, Jersey, Channel Islands, only child of Thomas Nixon, watchmaker, and his wife Jane, née Vandervord. The family emigrated to Brisbane in 1882. Educated locally, Edwin was appointed a pupil-teacher at South Brisbane State School on 14 April 1891. At the age of 18 he became the head (and only) teacher at Raglan Creek Provisional School. From 1895 he was an assistant-teacher, first at Mount Morgan and then at schools in Brisbane.

After resigning from the Department of Education in 1897, Nixon studied accounting. Admitted as a member of the British Society of Accountants and Auditors in 1901, he moved to Melbourne with his widowed mother and worked for a firm of accountants. On 15 November 1905 at All Saints Church, St Kilda, he married Amy Mabel MacKenzie with Anglican rites. In 1912 he established his own practice. Taking an increasingly prominent role in the profession, he joined (1919) the general council of the Australasian Corporation of Public Accountants and helped to found (1928) the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia.

In 1924 Nixon was nominated by the Joint Council of Accountancy Bodies of Victoria to the committee, chaired by (Sir) Douglas Copland, which developed the curricula and regulations for the new faculty of commerce at the University of Melbourne. Accepting an appointment as a part-time lecturer, he supervised the teaching of accounting and auditing subjects until 1929. The lectures which he and (Sir) Alexander Fitzgerald gave to their professional colleagues were published as Some Problems of Modern Accountancy (1928). Edwin V. Nixon & Partners developed into one of Melbourne's leading accounting firms. Its principal devoted an increasing proportion of his time to public affairs. His reputation for financial expertise led to his appointment to the Federal royal commissions on taxation (1932-34) and on the monetary and banking systems (1935-37).

Following the outbreak of World War II, Nixon accepted a number of posts in the departments of Defence Co-ordination, Supply and Development (Supply and Shipping) and the Treasury, working for almost the whole of his time without remuneration. His most important office, which he held from June 1940, was that of director of finance in the Department of Munitions. He was in his seventieth year when he returned to normal practice and he continued to work a ten-hour day during the last decade of his life. Appointed C.M.G. in 1935, he was knighted in 1951. Sir Edwin died on 19 August 1955 at his Brighton home and was cremated; his wife survived him, as did his daughter and two sons, the younger of whom had become a partner in his father's firm in 1936. Nixon's estate was sworn for probate at £193,260.

Shy and reserved in manner, Nixon displayed a prodigious capacity for well-directed work. When he established his practice he chose the code-word 'Methodical' for his telegraphic address. His professional philosophy was encapsulated in the conclusion to his lecture, Business Finance (1930): 'In the long run, the successful business is that which makes fewest mistakes'.

Select Bibliography

  • Parliamentary Debates (Commonwealth), 23 Sept 1932, p 760
  • Arthur Young News, no 42, Feb 1976
  • Herald (Melbourne), 19 Aug 1955.

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Citation details

Ian Castles, 'Nixon, Sir Edwin Van-der-vord (1876–1955)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/nixon-sir-edwin-van-der-vord-11247/text20061, published in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 2 September 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (MUP), 2000

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