KNOXVILLE — Forensic crime solving may be TV’s latest fixation, but it’s old news to Dr. Bill Bass. The renowned forensic anthropologist founded a one-of-a-kind research facility at the University of Tennessee 30 years ago. Crime writer Patricia Cornwell, a Bass protégé, dubbed it “The Body Farm” in one of her best-selling books, and the name stuck.
Today, scientists and law enforcement officers from around the world visit the farm, drawn by the unique research into crucial forensic issues like time of death. They all hope to spend some time with Bass himself, who, though retired from active teaching, continues to conduct experiments and to work with police.
Now his vast knowledge and fascinating stories are available to a wider audience in a new book, “Death’s Acre” (Penguin Putnam, 2003). Co-written with veteran journalist Jon Jefferson, the book focuses on some of Bass’s most puzzling cases and explores the reasons he continues to search for truth among the dead.
While this is Bass’s first book, he has written or co-authored more than 200 scientific publications, many of them based on the facility’s research projects or on crimes he has helped to prosecute and solve. Bass is also a dedicated, lifelong teacher. He has taught thousands of students, and was named National Professor of the Year by the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education in 1985. His former graduate students form the backbone of America’s new generation of forensic anthropologists; he has taught at least half the forensic anthropologists working in the United States today.
Bass is a fellow of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists, the American Anthropological Association, and the American Academy of Forensic Sciences and serves on the editorial boards of the Journal of Forensic Sciences and the Forensic Science Review. He has been featured in numerous newspaper and magazine profiles in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and US News and World Report and on television news and documentary programs including 60 Minutes, New Detectives, and Forensic Files.
Jon Jefferson is a veteran journalist, science writer and documentary filmmaker. His most recent documentary project was a pair of one-hour shows about the Body Farm for National Geographic and National Geographic International: “Biography of a Corpse” and “Anatomy of a Corpse.”
“Death’s Acre” will be launched with a national publicity tour in November, with stops in New York City, Washington, D.C., Wilmington, Del., San Diego and Los Angeles, Calif. and Chicago, Ill.
International editions will be published in Australia, Germany, Japan, France, the Netherlands and Italy.
Dr. Bass will give a lecture and sign copies of his new book at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 26, in the University Center Auditorium. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased by calling (865) 656-4444 or at www.knoxvilletickets.com. All proceeds benefit the Dr. William Bass Endowment at the Forensic Anthropology Research Center.