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Seminary Mourns the Passing of Sociologist Peter L. Berger, 88

Peter L. Berger, a renowned sociologist who taught at Hartford Seminary in the early 1960s, passed away on June 27. He was 88.

Dr. Berger was a Protestant theologian and sociologist known for pushing back against the notion that “God is dead.” His best known work, The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge (1966), has been named one of the five most influential sociology books of the 20th century.

Academic Dean Scott Thumma said Dr. Berger’s work had a powerful impact on him.

“I wouldn’t be teaching in this discipline and researching at the Hartford Institute for Religion Research if not for Peter Berger and his book The Social Construction of Reality,” Dean Thumma said. “And now I find myself at Hartford Seminary where he taught for five years while writing The Precarious Vision: A Sociologist Looks at Social Fictions and Christian Faith, The Noise of Solemn Assemblies and Invitation to Sociology: A Humanistic Perspective. These books, especially the latter, helped define the discipline of sociology and paved the way for Social Construction.

Dr. Berger was born in Austria and immigrated to the United States when he was 17, according to an extensive obituary in the New York Times. In addition to his time at Hartford Seminary, he taught at the New School for Social Research, Brooklyn College, Rutgers University and Boston College. In 1985, he founded the Institute on Culture, Religion and World Affairs at Boston University, which he directed until 2009.

“The academy has lost a fine sociologist and a colorful human being,” Dean Thumma said. “He was one of the most influential sociologists of religion in the past 100 years.”

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