106 BC – Marcus Tullius Cicero, Roman philosopher, author, and statesman who was a key figure in the politics of the late Roman Republic and one of Rome’s greatest orators and prose stylists; his extensive writings include treatises on rhetoric, philosophy, and politics.
1698 – Pietro Antonio Domenico Trapassi, better known by his pseudonym, Metastasio, Italian poet and librettist, he is considered the most important writer of opera seria libretti.
1803 – Douglas William Jerrold, English author, playwright, and magazine writer and editor, known for his liberal politics and satiric wit; at his funeral, author Charles Dickens was a pall bearer.
1765 – Nguyễn Du (阮攸), celebrated Vietnamese poet who wrote in chữ nôm, the ancient script of Vietnam, and used the pen names Tố Như and Thanh Hiên; his best known work is the epic poem The Tale of Kiều.
1831 – Savitribai Phule, Indian poet, teacher, and educator who was married at the age of 9; at 17, she co-founded (with her husband) Pune’s first school for girls.
1870 – Ethel Florence Lindesay Richardson (better known by her pen name, Henry Handel Richardson), Australian novelist, writer, and screenwriter.
1886 – John Gould Fletcher, American Imagist poet and the first Southern poet to win the Pulitzer Prize.
1888 – James Bridie (pseudonym of Osborne Henry Mavor), Scottish playwright, screenwriter, and physician.
1892 – J.R.R. Tolkien, English philologist, writer, linguist, and professor popularly considered the father of modern fantasy for his creation of Middle Earth in such books as the Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit.
1893 – Pierre Drieu La Rochelle, French novelist and essayist.
1898 – Carolyn Haywood, American children’s author and illustrator, best known for her Eddie and Betsy books.
1915 – Genoveva Dizon Edroza-Matute, award-winning Filipina author, essayist, short-story writer, radio and television writer, and teacher.
1922 – Morten Nielsen, Danish poet and resistance fighter who became the symbol of his generation’s desire for freedom; he was killed at the age of 22 for his work with the Danish resistance to the German occupation during World War II.
1931 – Plantagenet Somerset Fry (born Peter George Robin Fry), British historian and author of more than 50 books; Plantagenet was a nickname he adopted at university, relating to his advocacy of Richard III.
1933 – Grace Edwards, American mystery writer and former director of the Harlem Writers Guild.
1934 – Sugathakumari, award-winning Indian poet, writer, children’s author, environmental activist, and human-rights activist.
1938 – Alma Flor Ada, Cuban-born American author of children’s books, poetry, and novels; also a professor, she is recognized for her work promoting bilingual and multicultural education in the United States.
1963 – Alex Wheatle, Jamaican-British novelist, memoirist, lyricist, and DJ whose works tend to deal with the Brixton riots and the music scene.
1964 – Toshiyuki Horie (堀江 敏幸), Japanese author and translator.
1969 – Marie Darrieussecq, French Basque novelist who writes on themes of disappearance and absence, identity, and belonging.
1973 – Roderick ‘Rory’ James Nugent Stewart, Hong Kong-born British academic, author, and Conservative politician.
1975 – Jun Maeda (麻枝 准), Japanese scenario writer, lyricist, screenwriter, and musical composer for visual novels.
1975 – Danica McKellar, American actress, author, and mathematician; best known for her role on The Wonder Years television show, she has also written several books aimed at popularizing mathematics, including Math Doesn’t Suck and Kiss My Math.