"Count the Dead: Coroners, Quants, and the Birth of Death As We Know It"
with Dr. Stephen W. Berry, Gregory Professor of the Civil War Era at the University of Georgia
Date: Thursday, November 3, 2022
Time: 6 p.m.
Format: In Person
Location: I.G. Greer Hall Auditorium
Description: The global doubling of human life expectancy between 1850 and 1950 is arguably one of the most consequential developments in human history, undergirding massive improvements in human life and lifestyles. In 1850, Americans died at an average age of 30. Today, the average is almost 80. This story is typically told as a series of medical breakthroughs—Jenner and vaccination, Lister and antisepsis, Snow and germ theory, Fleming and penicillin—but the lion's share of the credit belongs to the men and women who dedicated their lives to collecting good data. Examining the development of death registration systems in the United States—from the first mortality census in 1850 to the development of the death certificate at the turn of the century—Count the Dead argues that mortality data transformed life on Earth, proving critical to the systemization of public health, casualty reporting, and human rights. Stephen Berry shows how a network of coroners, court officials, and state and federal authorities developed methods to track and reveal patterns of dying. These officials harnessed these records to turn the collective dead into informants and in so doing allowed the dead to shape life and death as we know it today. For more information, visit uncpress.org/book/9781469667522/count-the-dead.
Details: This event is free and open to the public. No ticket is required. For a disability accommodation, visit odr.appstate.edu.
Host: The Appalachian State University Department of History and College of Arts and Sciences
About the Speaker
Dr. Stephen W. Berry is Gregory Professor of the Civil War Era at the University of Georgia. His research focuses on “old, unhappy, far-off things.” His work has been supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Mellon Foundation, and the American Council of Learned Societies, among others.
Founding the Series
These events are part of the Civil War Speaker Series in the Department of History, housed in the College of Arts and Sciences at Appalachian State University. Dr. Judkin Browning, Professor of Civil War and Military History, designed the Series for scholars to give presentations on different aspects of the Civil War, helping the general public and campus community view and understand the conflict through new prisms.
About the Civil War Speaker Series
The Civil War Speaker Series furthers the College of Arts and Sciences mission of fostering the development of knowledge and skills essential to continued learning, as well as cultivating habits of inquiry. The U.S. Civil War is perhaps the most popular American history topic among the general public—judging by book sales, TV programs and internet searches. However, interpretations of that conflict are undergoing constant permutations, forever influenced by what’s happening in our own society (see the explosion of works on military occupation and guerrilla warfare since the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003).
These speakers allow the campus community and the greater community to learn more about current historical interpretations as well as expose them to new and creative ways of understanding the war and its aftermath. They will see that the war is about far more than Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant, and that these scholars open up new windows of opportunity to grapple with the issues of a war whose legacy we are still dealing with today.
This series advances our College’s vision, particularly “to engage more of the public in the enterprise of higher education and to help a larger public understand the significance of broad-based education anchored in a tradition of the liberal arts.”