H. Walter Lack was born in 1949 in Vienna. He studied biology at the University of Vienna, where he earned his doctorate in 1973. Over the next two years he worked as an assistant at the University of Salzburg. In 1975 he came to the University of Munich through the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. He later became the curator and then chief curator of the Botanic Garden and Botanical Museum Berlin. In 1990 he was appointed director at the Botanic Garden and Botanical Museum. From 1991 to 2014, he taught and did research as an adjunct professor at the Department of Biology, Freie Universität Berlin. He also worked at the universities in Palermo (Italy), Coimbra (Portugal), Patras (Greece), and Pisa (Italy).
Professor H. Walter Lack is the recipient of numerous national and international awards including the Sibthorp Medal from the University of Oxford (2001) and the Cross of Honor for Science and Art 1st Class of the Republic of Austria (2007). In 2014 on May 23, the birthday of Carl von Linné, Professor Lack was presented with the Linnean Medal, the highest award of the Linnean Society of London, in recognition of his life's work.
H. Walter Lack is an internationally renowned expert on the history of plant taxonomy, the botanical research of Alexander von Humboldt, and botanical illustrations. Altogether he has authored more than 350 scientific and popular publications. Many of them have become standard works on the history of botany and have been translated into several different languages.