Bill Bass, the forensic anthropologist behind The Body Farm talks about his life

5:13 PM, Jan 30, 2013   |    comments
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With the creation of The Body Farm, seven books and numerous breakthroughs in forensic anthropolgy, Dr. Bill Bass has certainly made a name for himself here locally and around the world.

In his household, skulls are allowed on the dinner table. In fact, bodies are part of his daily life.

"I never see a forensic case as a dead body. I see it as a challenge to see if I can figure out who that person is and what happened to them," says Dr. Bass.

Perhaps his biggest accomplishment has been at the University of Tennessee. He was head of the UT Anthropology Department for decades. During this time, he created The Body Farm which started almost by accident when he decided to do work for the state medical examiner's office.

"He writes the 95 medical examiners in Tennessee that they have a forensic anthropologist now. He should have said to identify bones, but instead he said to identify dead bodies," says Dr. Bass.

Soon enough, unidentified bodies started coming in from all over the state.

"In the fall of 71' I go to the dean. I say, 'dean, I need some land to put dead bodies on' and that was the beginning of The Body Farm.

Now it sits on three acres of land near UT Medical Center.

"What we have tried to do is to reconstuct the conditions that you find bodies in the state of Tennessee. So you find them on the ground, or you find them buried, or you find them in water, you find them in cars, trunks of cars," says Dr. Bass.

And it's done wonders for science, especially when it comes to determining time of death. It's worked so well Dr. Bass is being honored in a big way.

"They are buiding a new forensic anthropology building and they are naming it after me," says Dr. Bass,

And this is something that runs in the family. "There's an elementary school in Lynchburg, Virginia, named the Marvin Bass Elementary School, that's for my grandfather," says Dr. Bass. "And they built an elementary school named the Bass Hoover Elementary School named for my dad. And now you have me. And so the third generation of educators who have had a building named after them. Well, there are not many people in the world that would happen to."

Not many people in the world can say they've written best selling novels either, but Dr. Bass can.

He's written a book on osteology. "Every university that teaches osteology uses it," says Dr. Bass.

And seven novels, two non-fiction, five fiction. But all the fiction books are loosely based on real events. He's assisted law enforcement in more than a thousand cases over the years.

His life's work is all about death, but that doesn't get him down.

"I've always been happy. I've never been one to mourn or you know, I've lost two wives to cancer. I hate death and I hate mourning. I hate funerals. I don't like that scene at all," says Dr. Bass. "I'm not good at death."

He is a positive, spirited man with plenty of accomplishments under his belt.

"I've still got things I need to learn, research I need to do and I'm just not ready to quit and die yet.

Dr. Bass, an expert in the forensic world who deals with death daily, but lives his life to the fullest.

One of "Your Stories."  There's no place like this one.


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