"We live on the leash of our senses." -- Diane Ackerman
Diane Ackerman (born October 7, 1948 in Waukegan, Illinois) is an American author, poet, and naturalist known best for her work A Natural History of the Senses. Her writing style, referring to her best-selling natural history books, can best be described as a blend of poetry, colloquial history, and easy-reading science. She has taught at various universities, including Columbia and Cornell, and her essays regularly appear in distinguished popular and literary journals.
"A poem records emotions and moods that lie beyond normal language, that can only be patched together and hinted at metaphorically.""Everyone admits that love is wonderful and necessary, yet no one agrees on just what it is.""I don't want to be a passenger in my own life.""I don't want to get to the end of my life and find that I lived just the length of it. I want to have lived the width of it as well.""It began in mystery, and it will end in mystery, but what a savage and beautiful country lies in between.""Look in the mirror. The face that pins you with its double gaze reveals a chastening secret.""Nothing is more memorable than a smell. One scent can be unexpected, momentary and fleeting, yet conjure up a childhood summer beside a lake in the mountains.""Success produces success, just as money produces money.""Touch seems to be as essential as sunlight."
Diane Ackerman lived in Waukegan, Illinois until she was 8, when her family moved to Allentown, Pennsylvania. She received her B.A. in English from Pennsylvania State University and an M.A., M.F.A. and Ph.D. from Cornell University in 1978, where her dissertation advisor was Carl Sagan. 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. She currently resides 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.
Ackerman's awards and honors include: an honorary degree from Kenyon College, a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Orion Award, the John Burroughs Nature Award, and the Lavan Poetry Prize. She was named a "Literary Lion" by the New York Public Library, and a molecule ("dianeackerone") has been named after her. In 2008 she won the Orion Book Award for The Zookeeper's Wife.