1455 – Johann Reuchlin, German writer, translator, philosopher, jurist, theologian, classical scholar, and university teacher whose work centered on advancing German knowledge of Greek and Hebrew.
1737 – Thomas Paine, influential English-American political activist, writer, philosopher, and revolutionary, best known for his pamphlets, “Common Sense,” which demanded the American colonies’ independence from Britain, and “The Age of Reason,” which argued in favor of free thought and against organized religion, and which got him arrested in Paris.
1860 – Anton Chekhov, acclaimed, influential Russian dramatist, author, and doctor, widely considered one of the greatest short-story writers who ever lived.
1866 – Romain Rolland, Nobel Prize-winning French novelist, playwright, art historian, and mystic.
1867 – Vicente Blasco Ibáñez, Spanish politician, journalist, and bestselling novelist.
1878 – Sakuzō Yoshino, Japanese writer, historian, essayist, political scientist, and professor who formulated the theory of Minponshugi, or politics of the people.
1895 – Muna Lee, American/Puerto Rican poet, author, translator, and activist, best known for her writings promoting Pan-Americanism and feminism.
1903 – Yeshayahu Leibowitz, Latvian-born Israeli writer, journalist, biochemist, philosopher, pedagogue, and university teacher who was a prolific writer on Jewish thought and western philosophy, with outspoken views on ethics, religion, and politics.
1904 – Lidia Zamenhof, Polish writer, humanist, translator, linguist, and Esperantist who was the daughter of L.L. Zamenhof, the creator of Esperanto; Lidia died in the Holocaust, murdered at the Treblinka extermination camp.
1915 – Bill Peet, American children’s book author and illustrator who also wrote for Disney.
1923 – Paddy Chayefsky, American screenwriter, playwright, and novelist; he is the only person to win three solo Oscars for Best Screenplay.
1927 – Edward Abbey, American novelist, nonfiction author, essayist, and anarchist who wrote on environmental issues.
1930 – Christopher Collier, Pulitzer Prize-nominated American historian who is also a Newbery Honor-winning author of history-based novels for children and teens.
1931 – Leslie Bricusse (born January 29, 1931) – Academy Award-winning British lyricist, composer, and playwright who is best known for writing the music and lyrics for many popular films, including Scrooge, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, and Goodbye, Mr. Chips. His autobiography is entitled, Pure Imagination: A Sorta Biography.
1939 – Germaine Greer, Australian journalist, professor, social commentator, and bestselling author of books on feminist issues.
1941 – Arménio Vieira, award-winning Cape Verdean poet, writer, and journalist.
1943 – Rosemary Wells, beloved National Book Award-nominated American author and illustrator of children’s books; creator of the “Max & Ruby” series.
1954 – Oprah Winfrey, American media magnate, television personality, philanthropist, author, magazine publisher, actress, and inspiration for book clubs all over the country.
1957 – Grazyna Miller, Polish/Italian poet and translator.
1962 – Olga Tokarczuk, award-winning Polish novelist, poet, short-story writer, and activist who is considered one of the most successful Polish writers of her generation; she is a leftist, a vegetarian, an atheist, and a feminist, leading some groups in Poland to criticize her as unpatriotic and anti-Christian.
1966 – Mark Winkler, award-winning South African writer of literary novels and short fiction.
1973 – Jacob Dlamini, award-winning South African author, historian, journalist, editor, columnist, and professor; much of his work focuses on life for Blacks under apartheid.
1975 – Olga Novo, Spanish Galician poet, essayist, painter, and high-school teacher, and university professor.
1977 – Katherena Vermette, award-winning Canadian poet, writer, children’s author, and film director who advocates for the equality of Aboriginal peoples.
1978 – Joice Hasselmann, influential Brazilian journalist, writer, political commentator, activist, and politician.