Remembering Fellow Peter Berger

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Academy Fellow Peter Berger, a sociologist who focused on the sociology of religion, passed away on June 27, 2017, at the age of 88.

Berger was a professor emeritus of sociology, religion, and theology at Boston University, where he also founded the Institute on Culture, Religion, and World Affairs in 1985. He served as its first director from its inception until 2009.  The author of more than two dozen books, including the influential work, The Social Construction of Reality (Anchor Books, 1966), which was named by the International Sociological Association as the fifth most influential book written in the field of sociology in the twentieth century.

Berger came to prominence in the field during the debate over whether the idea of a God was still relevant in an increasingly secular society; as he saw it, religion remained an intellectually valid way of understanding the world.  He also did work on capitalism and development in the developing world, believing that capitalism and democracy were linked, as were socialism and authoritarianism.

Born in Vienna on March 17, 1929, to a Jewish family, Berger immigrated to the United States shortly after the end of World War II.  After receiving his doctorate from the New School, he served in the U.S. Army for two years and taught at various schools including Boston College and Rutgers University before joining Boston University in 1981.  He was married to the late Brigette Berger (Kellner), herself a prominent sociologist. The couple had collaborated on several works including a book on how technology was breaking down the emotional bonds of communities.  Professor Berger is survived by two sons, Thomas and Michael, and two grandchildren.