Diane Ackerman

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Diane Ackerman at the 2007 Texas Book Festival.

Diane Ackerman (born October 7, 1948) is an American author, poet, and naturalist known best for her work A Natural History of the Senses. Her writing style combines poetry, colloquial history, and popular science. She has taught at various universities, including Columbia and Cornell.[1]

Life and career[edit]

Ackerman lived in Waukegan, Illinois, until she was 8, when her family moved to Allentown, Pennsylvania.

She received a Bachelor of Arts in English from Pennsylvania State University and a Master of Arts, Master of Fine Arts and Ph.D. from Cornell University. Among the members of her dissertation committee was Carl Sagan, an astronomer and the creator of the Cosmos television series.[2] Over the years she taught at the University of Pittsburgh, Cornell, Washington University in St. Louis, and other colleges.

She has been married to novelist Paul West since 1970. West suffered a disabling stroke in 2006. Ackerman describes their ensuing life together in her book, One Hundred Names for Love (2011).[3] She currently lives in New York state.

A collection of her manuscripts, writings and papers (the Diane Ackerman Papers, 1971–1997—Collection No. 6299) is housed at the Cornell University Library.

Ackerman's book A Natural History of the Senses inspired the five-part Nova miniseries Mystery of the Senses, which she hosted. In 2008 she won the Orion Book Award for The Zookeeper's Wife.[4]

Selected bibliography[edit]

The Great Affair
The great affair, the love affair with life,
is to live as variously as possible,
to groom one's curiosity like a high-spirited thoroughbred,
climb aboard, and gallop over the thick, sun-struck hills every day..
It began in mystery, and it will end in mystery,
but what a savage and beautiful country lies in between.

– Diane Ackerman, "found poetry" from A Natural History of the Senses [5]



Children's books[edit]


  1. ^ Salzman, Eva; Wack, Amy (2008). Women's Work : Modern Women Poets Writing in English. Bridgend: Seren books. p. 326. ISBN 9781854114310. 
  2. ^ Richards, Linda L. (August 1999). "Interview: Diane Ackerman". January Magazine. Retrieved 2013-08-31. I didn't want to be a scientist. I just felt that the universe wasn't knowable from only one perspective. I wanted to be able to go exploring: follow my curiosity in both worlds. So I had a poet on my doctoral committee. And I had a scientist -- Carl Sagan. And I had someone in comparative literature. Essentially, they all ran interference for me so that I could -- ultimately -- write a dissertation that was about the metaphysical mind: science and art and be teaching and be in school while I was writing books. 
  3. ^ "Diane Ackerman's 'One Hundred Names for Love': A wife brings her stricken husband back from the brink". The Seattle Times. May 28, 2011. 
  4. ^ "2008 Orion Book Award Winner". Orion Magazine. April 1, 2008. 
  5. ^ The Great Affair

External links[edit]

Diane Ackerman posts New York Times