November 22, 1936 – December 5, 2008
Bernard “Bernie” Ackerman was born the son of an orthodontist in Elizabeth, New Jersey. He attended Phillips Academy and graduated from Princeton University. He received his medical degree from Columbia University. In an unusual twist for the time, he completed his dermatology residency by spending a year at each of three different dermatology departments: Columbia, Pennsylvania, and Harvard.
After a dermatopathology fellowship at Harvard, he began his academic career at the University of Miami in 1969 before transferring to NYU in 1973. He later founded the Ackerman Academy of Dermatopathology, where he trained the next generation of dermatopathologists using an 18-headed microscope.
Dr. Ackerman was a prolific researcher, having authored seven hundred papers and more than sixty books. His 1978 book, Histologic Diagnosis of Inflammatory Skin Disease, introduced the concept of diagnosis using scanning magnification and analysis of the silhouette of the skin specimen. Ackerman founded two journals, The American Journal of Dermatopathology and Dermatopathology: Practical and Conceptual.
Dr. Ackerman was keen to take controversial opinions and he testified in over two hundred court trials. A tall man with a baritone voice, he was articulate and persuasive. His New York Times obituary mentioned how he described as “dogmatic and unyielding at scanning magnification” but “reasonable and accommodating at high power” and “humane and empathetic” up close.
He died at his home in Manhattan at the age of seventy-two after a cardiovascular event.