Monday, April 13, 2009
A prolific writer, avid swimmer and a passionate historian, John Ferling is no average professor emeritus. After 33 years in the classroom at the University of West Georgia and retirement in 2004, Ferling is still earning a reputation as a premier authority of American history.
This month, Ferling traveled to New York City to be the guest of the American Revolution Roundtable of New York. The organization presented Ferling with the Lifetime Achievement Award and with the Best Book on the American Revolution in 2007 award for his book, “Almost a Miracle: The American Victory in the War of Independence.”
Ferling has written, edited and published more than a dozen books on American history, American politics and the political leaders who shaped this country. He has written biographies of George Washington and John Adams, books on early American warfare, the contentious election of 1800 and the American Revolution. “The Ascent of George Washington: The Hidden Political Genius of an American Icon” will be published by Bloomsbury Press early in June.
The historian has appeared in television documentaries on PBS, C-SPAN, the History Channel, and the Learning Channel. Those programs addressed topics including American slavery, the Founding Fathers, the American Revolution and John and Abigail Adams.
Last summer, NPR and the “History Detectives” series featured Ferling because of his knowledge of John Adams and his research for the book, “John Adams: A Life.” Ferling assumes the role of history detective often and contributed a new facet about John Adams while researching the man in the 1990s.
“A historian can take documents that others have read and see new things in them,” said Ferling. “For instance, many historians have written that John Adams may have been emotionally deranged. I wanted to test that thesis by looking at Adams' health. What resulted after rereading Adams's letters and diaries was an article that I co-authored with Dr. Lewis Braverman, an endocrinologist at Harvard medical School, that argued that Adams suffered from Graves' Disease.”
Not resting on his laurels, Ferling begins each weekday at 8 a.m. on the second floor of the Ingram Library where he is currently researching material for his upcoming book tentatively named “Independence: The Struggle to Set America Free” scheduled to be published in 2011 or 2012.
“When I was young, I traveled a lot during the summer doing research, sometimes spent several weeks in Boston working at the Massachusetts Historical Society and other libraries or going to Washington to work at the Library of Congress and Mount Vernon,” said Ferling. “Now I hate travel. I want to spend as little time in airports as possible and as much time as I can at home with Carol, my wife, with my cats and my stereo system. As a result, I pick my topics very judiciously, choosing subjects that I can mostly research at UWG.”
The Ingram Library has two modern editions of Washington's Papers, which contain approximately 46 volumes, and an edition of 37 volumes added to Special Collections in the 1930s and 1940s. Ferling also uses interlibrary loans to gather research materials and as a result he has been able to complete 95 percent of his research for his recent books on campus.
Every morning at 5:30, the professor swims thirty laps in his swimming pool. The historian, who turned 69 in January, works at the library until noon, and then returns to his Carrollton home for lunch. After lunch, he walks several miles daily. He does not plan on slowing down anytime soon.
“I really don't know the so-called secret of my continued activity,” said Ferling. “It is probably a combination of exercise, good diet and a love of research and writing. And I never bring my work home with me.”
To read the preface of Ferling’s biography of John Adams, go to http://books.google.com.