1504 – Sin Saimdang, Korean poet, writer, calligrapher, and painter; she is often held up as a model of Confucian ideals, with the nickname Eojin Eomeoni, which means “Wise Mother,” and was the mother of the Korean Confucian scholar Yi I. Her real name was Shin In Seon, but she also wrote under the pen names Saim, Saimdang, Inimdang, and Imsajae.
1711 – Laura Maria Caterina Bassi Veratti, Italian physicist and academic who was the most important popularizer of Newtonian mechanics in Italy; she was recognized and depicted as “Minerva” (goddess of wisdom). She was the first woman to have a doctorate in science and the second woman in the world to earn the Doctor of Philosophy degree, working at the University of Bologna, she was also the first salaried female teacher in a university, and at one time was the highest paid employee of the university; she eventually held two other professorships.
1740 – James Boswell, Scottish lawyer, author, diarist, and biographer, best known for his Life of Samuel Johnson, which was unique at the time in that it directly incorporated conversations that Boswell had transcribed in his journals; Johnson also included personal and human details that painted a vivid portrait much different from the dry, respectful biographies readers were accustomed to. It is still considered by many to be the best English-language biography every written.
1810 – Sophie d’Arbouville, French poet, writer, novelist, and salonnière.
1855 – William Charles Scully, South African novelist, poet, travel writer, nonfiction author, and short-story writer who was one of his country’s best-known writers, although his work is little known outside of South Africa; his writing was unusual for the time in that it was generally sympathetic with aboriginal African peoples.
1873 – Guillermo Valencia, Colombian poet, translator, and statesman whose poems are noted for their Modernist experimentation and exotic imagery. His son Guillermo León Valencia grew up to be President of Colombia, while his daughter Josefina Valencia Muñoz became Governor of Cauca.
1882 – Jean (Hippolyte) Giraudoux, French playwright and novelist who penned La Folle de Chaillot (“The Madwoman of Chaillot”); his stylized dramas focused on universal themes of love, death, and war, with characters who often represented abstract ideas.
1890 – Claire Goll (born Clara Aischmann), German-French writer, novelist, short-story author, poet, journalist, and peace activist.
1892 – Wendy Wood (born Gwendoline Emily Meacham), English born British and South African writer, artist, sculptor, and activist for Scottish independence who was controversial because of her theatrical political tactics.
1899 – Kate Seredy, Caldecott and Newbery Medal-winning Hungarian-born children’s author and illustrator who relocated to the United States in her 20s and wrote most of her books in English, a language she did not learn until adulthood.
1904 – Audrey Alexandra Brown, Canadian poet, writer, journalist, and essayist who was named an Officer of the Order of Canada “for her contributions to Canadian poetry”; she sometimes used the pseudonym Khoji.
1905 – Henry Greene, pen name of Henry Vincent Yorke, English author best known for modernist novels in which he avoided the use of definite articles in his writing, to reflect a Birmingham accent; the New York Review of Books said Green was “one of the 20th century’s great unpeggable originals, each of whose novels (each of whose sentences, you could even say) takes off for new and unexpected places.”
1924 – Zbigniew Herbert, Polish poet, essayist, and playwright.
1925 – Dominick Dunne, U.S. writer, journalist, television commentator, and film and television producer whose work often dealt with the upper class and the legal system.
1927 – Annie Riis, award-winning Norwegian writer, poet, children’s author, and translator.
1941 – Bakdi Soemanto, Indonesian writer, poet, editor, playwright, and professor.
1945 – Reynaldo A. Duque, award-winning Filipino Ilocano writer, magazine editor, novelist, poet, playwright, scriptwriter, and translator who writes in Ilocano, Filipino, and English).
1948 – Frans de Waal (full name Franciscus Bernardus Maria “Frans” de Waal), award-winning Dutch primatologist, ethologist, author, columnist, and professor whose research centers on primate social behavior; he is best known for his books Our Inner Ape and The Bonobo and the Atheist.
1954 – Lee Child, pen name of Lee Grant, award-winning British thriller writer known for his Jack Reacher series about a former American military police officer.
1958 – Ann-Marie MacDonald, award-winning Canadian playwright, author, and actress whose first novel, Fall On Your Knees, was an Oprah’s Book Club selection.
1958 – David Remnick, Pulitzer Prize-winning U.S. author, biographer, editor, and journalist best known for his book Lenin’s Tomb: The Last Days of the Soviet Empire.
1963 – Gerald Morris, U.S. author known for young-adult fiction that is set in the Middle Ages and blends retellings of the King Arthur legends with new storylines involving the knights of the Round Table.
1965 – Chen Xiaoxu, Chinese writer, poet, actress, and businessperson who became a Buddhist nun.
1967 – Shehu Sani, Nigerian senator, author, playwright, poet, and human rights activist.
1974 – Liesel Schwarz, South African-born British steampunk author who is often referred to as the High Priestess of British Steampunk.