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Diane Ackerman was born in Waukegan, Illinois in 1948. Her formal education, a B.A. in English from Pennsylvania State University (1970), an M.F.A. (1973), M.A. in English (1976), and Ph.D. in English (1978), all from Cornell University, coincided with her emergence as a lyric poet whose sensibilities are reminiscent of Thoreau, Whitman, and A.R. Ammons, among others. During the late 1970s and 1980s, Ackerman published three volumes of poetry and a verse drama, all with William Morrow. Ackerman gained recognition for her for creative non-fiction with the publication of A Natural History of the Senses in 1990, a work which combines keen observation and research with autobiographical insight. In A Natural History of Love (1994), and, most recently, A Slender Thread (1997), Ackerman continues her meditative exploration of the interconnection between the natural and human worlds. She has extended her readership with the publication of two non-fiction books for children: Monk Seal Hideaway (1995) and Bats: Shadows in the Night (1997). Her poetry appears in numerous anthologies and her prose is commissioned by a variety of magazines including National Geographic, New Woman, The New Yorker, and Victoria.

Ackerman lives in Ithaca, NY with her husband, novelist Paul West.