1596 – René Descartes, influential French philosopher, mathematician, and scientist whose writings are considered the foundation of modern philosophy.
1823 – Mary Boykin Chestnut, American author from South Carolina known for her published Civil War Diary, which described the war from within her upper-class circles of Southern planter society, but encompassed all classes.
1891 – Ester Blenda Elisabet Nordström, Swedish investigative journalist, nonfiction writer, novelist, children’s author, and explorer who often published her writing under the pen name Bansai; she wrote about her experiences touring around Sweden by motorcycle, hitchhiking alone across the U.S., and exploring Kamchatka; she also wrote a series of young-adult novels about tomboys. It was said that everyone she encountered, male and female, fell in love with her.
1912 – William Lederer, American naval officer, novelist, and nonfiction writer, best known for co-authoring the political novel The Ugly American, which was adapted into a film.
1914 – Octavio Paz, Nobel Prize-winning Mexican writer, poet, playwright, essayist, professor, and diplomat, celebrated “for impassioned writing with wide horizons, characterized by sensuous intelligence and humanistic integrity.”
1920 – Marga Minco (pseudonym of Sara Menco) Dutch journalist, writer, and existential novelist; as a Jew, she went into hiding during World War II and was the only member of her family to survive the Holocaust.
1924 – Leo Buscaglia, American author, professor, and motivational speaker.
1926 – John Fowles, English modernist and postmodernist novelist, best known for his period romance The French Lieutenant’s Woman.
1926 – Beni Montresor, Caldecott Medal-winning Italian artist, author, children’s book illustrator, opera and film director, and set designer, knighted by the Italian government for his contributions to the arts.
1932 – John Jakes, bestselling American writer known for several multi-book series of historical fiction sagas that span American history; he has also used the pen name Jay Scotland.
1934 – Kamala Surayya, Indian writer, poet, short-story writer, columnist, and autobiographer who wrote both in English and Malayalam, with her work in English published under the name Kamala Das; she wrote on diverse topics including women’s issues, child care, and politics, and was noted for her open and honest treatment of female sexuality.
1935 – Judith Rossner, American novelist whose bestselling book Looking for Mr. Goodbar is her best known work.
1936 – Marge Piercy, bestselling American novelist, poet, memoirist, and political activist; her works vary from science fiction to historical novels and sometimes incorporate Jewish mysticism and folklore, but all of them focus on the lives of women.
1960 – Ian McDonald, British science-fiction novelist whose themes include nanotechnology, postcyberpunk settings, and the impact of rapid social and technological change on non-Western societies.