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Bill Bass

Bill BassAKA William Marvin Bass III

Born: 30-Aug-1928
Birthplace: Staunton, VA

Gender: Male
Religion: Atheist
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Scientist
Party Affiliation: Democratic

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Human decomposition

Military service: US Army (Psychological and Anthropological Research, 1951-53)

Forensic anthropologist Bill Bass is among the most famous Americans in his field, which is the use of physical anthropology to resolve medical and criminal matters about the dead. He is the former director of the University of Tennessee's Forensic Anthropology Center (FAC), a two-acre compound known colloquially as "The Body Farm", where human remains are left to decay in various natural and controlled environments.

At the FAC, the world's only laboratory devoted to the study of human decomposition, Bass's research has helped provide the basis that allows crime scene investigators to determine, among myriad other details, the cause of death in cases where police are working with victims' skeletal remains, or the time of death, based on such factors as the number and size of insects or the rate of flesh and organ rot. His research has also yielded unexpected results for example, Bass has found that the smell of cancer victims' corpses is distinctly different from the scent of victims of other natural causes, and that maggots feeding on the body of recreational drug users can be chemically distinguished from maggots feeding on abstainers.

Father: Marvin Bass (d., suicide)
Mother: Jenny Bass
Wife: Mary Ann Owen (nutrition scientist, m. 8-Aug-1953, d. 27-Mar-1993, cancer)
Son: Charlie
Son: William M. Bass IV
Son: Jim
Wife: Annette Blackbourne Bass (m. 21-May-1994, d. 25-May-1997, lung cancer)
Wife: Carol Lee Hicks (m. 17-Dec-1997)

    University: BA Psychology, University of Virginia (1951)
    University: MS Anthropology, University of Kentucky (1956)
    University: PhD Anthropology, University of Pennsylvania (1961)
    Scholar: Psychophysiology, Army Medical Research Laboratory (civilian, 1953-54)
    Lecturer: Physical Anthropology, University of Pennsylvania (1956-60)
    Lecturer: Anthropology, University of Nebraska (1960)
    Lecturer: Anthropology, University of Kansas (1960-61)
    Teacher: Anthropology, University of Kansas (1961-67)
    Professor: Anthropology, University of Kansas (1967-71)
    Professor: Anthropology, University of Tennessee (1971-94)
    Administrator: Forensic Anthropology Center, University of Tennessee (1994-98)

    Smithsonian Institution Anthropologist (summers, 1956-59)
    AAFS Physical Anthropology Award 1985
    American Journal of Physical Anthropology Editorial Board (1986-91)
    Forensic Science Review Editorial Board (1989-)
    Journal of Forensic Sciences Editorial Board (1989-2004)
    American Academy of Forensic Sciences
    American Board of Forensic Anthropology 1978
    National Geographic Society Funding, 1961-70
    National Science Foundation Funding, 1961-70
    Omicron Delta Kappa Honor Society
    Phi Beta Kappa Society
    Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society
    Sigma Xi Scientific Research Society

Author of books:
Death's Acre: Inside the Legendary Forensic Lab, The Body Farm, Where the Dead Do Tell Tales (2003, with Jon Jefferson)
Beyond the Body Farm (2007, with Jon Jefferson)


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