Diane Ackerman

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Diane Ackerman at the 2007 Texas Book Festival.

Diane Ackerman (born October 7, 1948 in Waukegan , Illinois ) is an American writer and poet. Best known is her book A Natural History of the Senses (published in German as The beautiful power of the senses ). With regard to her books on natural history, her style can best be described as a mixture of poetry, narrative, and popular science. She has taught at various universities including Columbia University and Cornell University . Her essays appear regularly in respected magazines.

Life and professional history

Diane Ackerman grew up in Waukegan, Illinois, until the age of eight, then moved with her family to Allentown , Pennsylvania . She received her BA in English from Pennsylvania State University , followed by an MA, MFA and Ph.D (1978) from Cornell University . Her dissertation was supervised by Carl Sagan . She has taught over the years at the University of Pittsburgh , Cornell, Washington University in St. Louis, and various colleges. Diane Ackerman married the novelist Paul West in 1970. She currently lives in New York State .

A collection of her manuscripts, writings, and other papers is held in the Cornell University Library under the directory name The Diane Ackerman Papers, 1971-1997 . Ackerman's book A Natural History of the Senses was the basis for the five-part television series Mystery of the Senses , which she supervised.

Awards and honors she has received include: an Honorary Degree from Kenyon College, the Orion Book Award, the John Burroughs Nature Award, and the Lavan Poetry Prize. The New York Public Library called her a "Lioness of Literature". A molecule was named after her, the Dianeackerone. She received the Orion Book Award in 2008 for her book The Zookeeper's Wife . In 2016 she was elected a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences .


The 2016 German translation of the book Die Frau des Zoodirektors. A story from the war (first in 2007) about the German occupation of Warsaw during the Second World War was criticized in 2017 in the “ NZZ ” by the Polish journalist Marta Kijowska . The book is based on the memoirs of the actual "wife of the zoo director", Antonina Żabińska, published in Warsaw in 1968 under the title Ludzie i zwierzęta . Ackerman discovered this book for herself, but she understood it poorly and made her own version with distortions and errors.

Works (selection)

Books of poetry and plays

  • The Planets: A Cosmic Pastoral . 1976.
  • Wife of Light . William Morrow and Company, New York 1978, ISBN 0-688-03286-9 .
  • Lady Faustus . 1983.
  • Reverse thunder . A Play in Verse, Lumen Books, New York 1988, ISBN 0-930829-09-3 .
  • Jaguar of Sweet Laughter: New and Selected Poems . Random House, New York 1991, ISBN 0-394-57645-4 .
  • Animal Sense . 2000.
  • Origami bridges . 2002.
  • I Praise My Destroyer . Random House (et al.), New York 1998, ISBN 0-679-44878-0 .


  • Twilight of the Tenderfoot . 1980.
  • On Extended Wings . 1985.
  • A Natural History of the Senses . Random House, New York 1990, ISBN 0-394-57335-8 .
    • German: '' The beautiful power of the senses: a cultural history ''. Translated by Antoinette Gittinger, Kindler, Munich 1991, ISBN 3-463-40167-3 .
  • The Moon by Whale Light, and Other Adventures Among Bats and Crocodilains, Penguins and Whales . Vintage Books, New York 1992 (1991), ISBN 0-679-74226-3 .
    • German: The moon in whale light and other adventures among bats, crocodiles, whales and penguins . Translated by Thomas Jung, Aufbau-Verlag, Berlin 1994, ISBN 3-351-02416-9 .
  • A Natural History of Love . Random House, New York 1994, ISBN 0-679-40347-7 .
  • The Rarest of the Rare . Random House, New York 1995, ISBN 0-679-40346-9 .
    • German: The last albatross. On the disappearance of species . Europa-Verlag, Hamburg 2003, ISBN 3-203-75002-3 .
  • A Slender Thread: Rediscovering Hope at the Heart of Crisis . Vintage Books, New York 1998, ISBN 0-679-77133-6 .
  • Deep play . Random House, New York 1999, ISBN 0-679-44879-9 .
  • Cultivating Delight . 2002.
  • * German: The soul of my garden . Europa-Verlag, Hamburg, ISBN 3-203-75000-7 .
  • An Alchemy of Mind: The Marvel and Mystery of the Brain . 2004.
  • The Zookeeper's Wife: A War Story . Norton, New York 2007, ISBN 978-0-393-06172-7 .
    • The zoo director's wife. A story from the war . Christine Naegele in Romanian. Munich: Wilhelm Heyne, 2016
  • Dawn Light: Dancing with Cranes and Other Ways to Start the Day . Norton, New York 2009, ISBN 978-0-393-06173-4 .
  • One Hundred Names for Love: A Stroke, a Marriage, and the Language of Healing . 2011.

Children's books

Web links

Commons : Diane Ackerman  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Diane Ackerman's website accessed on August 8, 2011
  2. Orion Magazin Web website accessed on August 8, 2011
  3. ^ American Academy of Arts and Sciences : Newly Elected Fellows. In: amacad.org. Retrieved April 22, 2016 .
  4. Antonina and Jan Żabińska Żabiński, see article in the Polish Wikipedia pl: Antonina Żabińska and pl: January Żabiński
  5. Antonina Żabińska: Ludzie i zwierzęta . Warszawa: Czytelnik, 1968
  6. Marta Kijowska: A failure and a misstep . In: "NZZ", January 28, 2017, p. 25