1721 – Mark Akenside, English poet and physician; renowned poet Alexander Pope called him, “no ordinary writer.”
1731 – Benjamin Banneker, African-American U.S. author, almanac editor, mathematician, inventor, and astronomer who was the son of an ex-slave and a former indentured servant; he corresponded with Thomas Jefferson.
1732 – Jeanne Julie Éléonore de Lespinasse, French writer, artist, and prominent salon holder who is best known today for her letters, which offer compelling accounts of two tragic love affairs.
1745 – William Hayley, English author, poet, essayist, and biographer; he is most remembered as the best friend and biographer of poet William Cowper.
1818 – Ivan Turgenev, Russian realist writer, poet, playwright, translator, novelist, short-story writer, and popularizer of Russian literature in the West; his first major publication, a short-story collection entitled A Sportsman’s Sketches, is regarded as a milestone of Russian realism, and his novel Fathers and Sons is considered one of the major works of 19th-century fiction.
1832 – Émile Gaboriau, French mystery writer and journalist who was a pioneer of modern detective fiction.
1854 – Maud Howe Elliott, U.S. writer who was the daughter of Julia Ward Howe (social activist, poet, and author of the Battle Hymn of the Republic); Maud won a Pulitzer Prize for a biography of her mother.
1871- Florence Sabin, pioneering U.S. medical researcher, doctor, and professor who was the first woman to hold a full professorship at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, the first woman elected to the National Academy of Sciences, the first woman to head a department at the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research, and the first female president of the American Association of Anatomists; her work to produce a three-dimensional model of a newborn baby’s brain stem became the focus of her textbook, An Atlas of the Medulla and Midbrain; other areas in which she focused her research and writing included the lymphatic system, the immune system, blood vessels and cells, tuberculosis, and public health.
1877 – Muhammad Iqbal, Pakistani poet, writer, children’s author, philosopher, and politician who was a leader in the Pakistan Movement; he wrote in Urdu, Persian, and English and was named the National Poet of Pakistan.
1880 – Yordan Yovkov, Bulgarian writer, teacher, poet, playwright, and editor.
1885 – Viktor Vladimirovich Khlebnikov, influential poet and playwright who was a central part of the Russian Futurist movement.
1903 – Josefina Pla, Spanish-born Paraguayan poet and author who was also known for her artwork and her human-rights activism.
1909 – Kay Thompson, U.S. author, composer, musician, actress, and singer who is best known as creator of the Eloise children’s books.
1911 – Diná Silveira de Queirós, award-winning Brazilian writer, biographer, journalist, children’s author, short-story writer, and novelist who was only the second woman elected to the Brazilian Academy of Letters.
1914 – Hedy Lamarr, Austrian and U.S. actress, autobiographer, and inventor; at age 18, already a movie and stage star in Austria, she met and married a wealthy arms dealer who she eventually learned had ties to Hitler. He kept her a virtual prisoner in his castle until she managed to sneak out and escape the country. In the U.S., she became a major movie star, but she desperately wanted to help the war effort against the Nazis, and recruited composer George Antheil to help her develop a radio guidance system for Allied torpedoes that could defeat the threat of jamming by the Axis powers. The principles of her work were later incorporated into Bluetooth and GPS technology. She was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2014.
1918 – Su Beng (born Lin Chao-hui), Taiwanese writer, historian, dissident, historian, and political activist of the Taiwan independence movement; she was also known as Shih Chao-hui.
1920 – Shafiq-ur-Rahman, influential Pakistani writer, short-story author, humorist, and physician who is considered a key figure in Urdu literature.
1922 – Maja Boškovic-Stulli, Croatian slavicist and folklorist, literary historian, writer, publisher, and academic, noted for her extensive research into Croatian oral literature.
1923 – James Schuyler, Pulitzer Prize-winning U.S. poet of the New York School.
1928 – Jyotish Jagannath Jani, Indian Gujarati novelist, poet, editor, literary critic, and short-story writer.
1928 – Lojze Kovacic, award-winning Slovene and Swiss writer and children’s author whose novel Prišleki (The Newcomers) is considered one of the most important Slovene novels of the 20th century; many of his novels are autobiographical.
1928 – Anne Sexton, Pulitzer Prize-winning U.S. poet who was known for her highly personal confessional verse.
1929 – Imre Kertész, Nobel Prize-winning Hungarian author whose writing is said to uphold “the fragile experience of the individual against the barbaric arbitrariness of history”; he is best known for his semi-autobiographical accounts of the Holocaust.
1933 – Villanueva Cosse, award-winning Uruguayan author, actor, writer, playwright, translator, and theater director who is now based in Argentina.
1934 – Lois Ehlert, Caldecott Medal-winning U.S. children’s author and illustrator.
1934 – Ronald Harwood, Oscar-winning South African novelist, playwright, screenwriter, writer, actor, and film producer.
1934 – Shulamit Lapid, award-winning Israeli novelist, playwright, short-story writer, mystery writer, and children’s writer; her best known book Valley of Strength tells the story of the first immigrants to the modern land of Israel. She is also the creator of the character Lizzy Badihi, a journalist-turned-detective in Lapid’s thriller novels who is described as “tottering in her oversized shoes and wearing oversized earrings” as she investigates crimes.
1934 – Carl Sagan, U.S. astronomer, astrophysicist, science writer, television personality, and science-fiction novelist who helped popularize scientific topics.
1935 – Antonio Porta (pen name of Leo Paolazzi), Italian writer, poet, editor, translator, literary critic, children’s writer, and science-fiction author who was one of the founders of the Italian literary movement Gruppo 63.
1937 – Roger Joseph McGough, British poet, children’s author, playwright, and broadcaster.
1942 – Karin Kiwus, German poet, writer, editor, author, and university teacher.
1944 – Torquato Pereira de Araújo Neto, Brazilian journalist, poet, and songwriter who is perhaps best known as a lyricist for the Tropicália counterculture movement.
1946 – Marina Sarah Warner, English novelist, short-story writer, historian, mythographer, and professor; she is known for her many nonfiction books relating to feminism and myth.
1947 – Dermot Healy, award-winning Irish novelist, playwright, poet, screenwriter, and short story writer; though he is not widely known outside of his country, in Ireland he is considered by many to be Ireland’s finest living novelist and has been called the “Celtic Hemingway.”
1947 – Oh Jung-Hee, award-winning South Korean writer and children’s author, some of whose work is non-imagistic and centered on family life as something like a trap for women.
1949 – Manilal Haridas Patel, award-winning Indian Gujarati poet, essayist, novelist, and literary critic who has made significant contributions to Gujarati literature.
1955 – Janet Fitch, U.S. author and professor who is best known for her novel White Oleander.
1957 – Bryan Gruley, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, nonfiction author, and novelist who is well known for his coverage of the September 11 terrorist attacks and for his award-winning mystery novels.
1957 – Gorg Mallia, Maltese author, cartoonist, children’s book writer and illustrator, communications specialist, and professor.
1958 – C.J. Box, bestselling U.S. short-story writer and author of 18 novels, including Stone Cold and Shots Fired, both part of his Joe Pickett series.
1959 – Deborah Ascher Barnstone, Australian author, historian, architect, architectural historian, and professor.
1960 – Taoufik Ben Brik, Tunisian author and journalist who has been a prominent critic of the former Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and of censorship in the Middle East.
1960 – So Hajin (pen name of Seo Deoksun), award-winning South Korean novelist and short-story writer; her work explores feminine desire and challenges the patriarchal nature of Korean society and its customs.
1960 – Michael Robotham, bestselling Australian author of crime fiction who began his career as a ghost writer.
1961 – Jackie Kay, Scottish poet and novelist who is the national Poet Laureate of Scotland and the chancellor of the University of Salford.
1965 – Bjarni Bjarnason, award-winning Icelandic poet, novelist, and playwright; one critic said of his books, “Time is an important element in all his novels; their imagery is influenced by ancient myths and invested with a fairy tale atmosphere while simultaneously referring to modern phenomena.”
1965 – Park Jeong-dae, South Korean writer and poet who is a member of the International Radical Poetry group and the April 19 Generation; according to one critic: “Absurdities in life, frightful experiences, and situations that defy logic and empathy—these things have compelled the poet to dream of a distant, alternative realm where possibilities of endless love still exist.”
1972 – Lars “Lasse” Erik Oliver Lindroth, Iranian-born Swedish comedian, writer, and actor who became famous as a comedian, using the stage name Ali Hussein; he went on to write books and to play parts in films and television programs.
1978 – Matt Gibson, Canadian writer, world traveler, photographer, blogger, and social anthropologist.
1987 – Kristin Fridtun, Norwegian writer, author and former Olympic ski jumper.
1988 – Tahereh Mafi, U.S. novelist, science-fiction writer, and young-adult fiction writer whose parents emigrated from Iran; some of her best known work is dystopian.