Author and forensic anthropologist Dr. Bill Bass speaks to area seniors

By Jamie Schnell

Forensic anthropologist and author Dr. William Bass spoke at the John O’Connor Senior Center Thursday, hosted by the Senior for Creative Learning committee.

Originally from Kansas, Dr. Bass came to Knoxville in 1971 because “the university wanted to add a masters and doctorate program.” After achieving a B.A. in psychology in Virginia, Dr. Bass began exploring his interest in anthropology.

Dr. Bass told the group, “The more I furthered my education, the more interest I had in the human body, and began to explore the answer to what actually happens to the body and how long does it actually take to decompose.” He went where “his desires were” and achieved his master’s in Kentucky and finished his Ph.D. in anthropology in Pennsylvania before ending up in Knoxville.

To help in his educational research (including medical and criminal purposes), Dr. Bass created the UT Anthropological Research Facility, also known to many in the community as the “Body Farm” located on three acres of property behind UT hospital.

Dr. Bass’ presentation included a behind the scenes look at the making of the Body Farm and construction of the William M. Bass Forensic Anthropology building located at 1924 Alcoa Hwy. in Knoxville. He talked about how a good forensic investigation consists of at least four students: one responsible for photography, one to take measurements, and two that handle the body. The O’Connor seniors learned about the blowfly life cycle and its contribution to the decomposition of the human body and the vegetation surrounding it.

With his extensive background and education, including archaeological work with the Smithsonian Museum, Dr. Bass has helped solve national crimes, working on over 670 police cases over the years. He has also cowritten fifteen books with Jon Jefferson under the pseudonym “Jefferson Bass” such as “Death’s Acre,” “Carved in Bone,” “Bones of Betrayal,” “Bone Thief” and “Cut to the Bone.”

To learn more about Dr. Bass, visit