A. Roger Ekirch receives 2009 Alumni Award for Excellence in Research
April 20, 2009
A. Roger Ekirch, professor of history in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences at Virginia Tech, received the university's 2009 Alumni Award for Excellence in Research.
Sponsored by the Virginia Tech Alumni Association, the Alumni Award for Excellence in Research is presented annually to as many as two Virginia Tech faculty members who have made outstanding research contributions. Alumni, students, faculty, and staff may nominate candidates. Each recipient is awarded $2,000.
Ekirch has achieved international acclaim for his groundbreaking scholarship in American and European history. In addition to numerous articles, anthropology chapters, and other publications, Ekirch has penned three books: “Poor Carolina”: Politics and Society in Colonial North Carolina, 1729-1776; Bound for America: The Transportation of British Convicts to the Colonies, 1718-1775; and At Day’s Close: Night in Times Past.
Considered his magnum opus, the award-winning At Day’s Close extends from the Middle Ages to the Industrial Revolution, a period when nighttime spawned a remarkably vibrant and distinctive culture. Widely acclaimed, the book has already been republished in the United Kingdom and translated for publication in the Netherlands, Germany, and China. It will soon appear in Russia, South Korea, Taiwan, and Turkey.
John Leonard of Harper’s Magazine described At Day’s Close as “an enthralling anthropology of the shadow realms of Western Europe.” He added, “Night had a lot to say for itself as a separate, creative space. Ekirch makes an informed and passionate case against too much artificial light.”
“Ekirch has written a book that anybody with an imagination will find fascinating, but one that is the mirror image of conventional popular history,” wrote David Wootten of the London Review of Books. “He has a beady eye for the tiny anecdote, the telling vignette, the mini-narrative, but these events don’t drive the story onward, for it constantly circles back on itself.”
Ekirch’s historical research has had a significant impact on the medical community, demonstrating the value of the social sciences in other areas of study. Through the examination of diaries, court cases, and other primary sources, Ekirch discovered that people in Western societies experienced a different pattern of sleep before the Industrial Revolution, characterized by two major periods of sleep bridged by up to an hour of quiet wakefulness. Featured in a cover story for the New York Times Sunday Magazine, this research has shed new light on common “sleep disorders.”
Ekirch earned his bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth College and his master’s and Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University.