1503 – Nostradamus, French author, astrologist, and alleged seer, credited with foreseeing many world events (possibly born on Dec. 21; accounts vary).
1546 – Tycho Brahe, Danish astronomer, author, poet, autobiographer, and alchemist who was known for his accurate and comprehensive astronomical observations; he has been described as “the first competent mind in modern astronomy to feel ardently the passion for exact empirical facts.”
1640 – Aphra Behn (pen name Astrea), British playwright, poet, novelist, and writer; as one of the first English women to earn her living by her writing, she broke cultural barriers and served as a literary role model for generations of women authors. She is remembered in Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own: “All women together ought to let flowers fall upon the tomb of Aphra Behn which is, most scandalously but rather appropriately, in Westminster Abbey, for it was she who earned them the right to speak their minds.” Before Behn began writing plays, King Charles II employed her as a spy in Antwerp.
1777 – Juan N. Gallego, Spanish poet, priest, and interpreter.
1813 – Jamgön Kongtrül Lodrö Thayé (also known as Jamgön Kongtrül the Great), renowned Tibetan Buddhist scholar, poet, artist, and physician; one of the most prominent Tibetan Buddhists of the 19th century, he composed more than 90 volumes of writing, including his magnum opus, The Treasury of Knowledge.
1844 – Nakajima Utako, Japanese writer, poet, and founder of the prominent Haginoya (“House of Bush Clover”) poetry school; she wrote in the Japanese waka and tanka forms and is associated with Keien court poetry
1853 – Salvador Díaz Mirón, influential Mexican poet who is considered a precursor of modernismo; his early verse, written in a passionate, romantic style, was influenced by Lord Byron and Victor Hugo; his later verse was more classical in mode.
1888 – Yong Sathiankoset (also known by his title, Phya Anuman Rajadhon), Thai author, linguist, artist, anthropologist, folklorist, and ethnographer whose work explored the culture of Thailand and set the foundations for cultural awareness among young Thai scholars.
1895 – Paul Éluard, French poet who helped found the surrealist movement.
1908 – Mária Szepes, Hungarian screenwriter, writer, poet, journalist, children’s author, science-fiction author, and actress; she sometimes wrote under the pseudonyms Mária Papir or Mária Orsi.
1910 – Upendranath Sharma “Ashk”, Indian novelist, short-story writer, and playwright who began his literary career writing in Urdu but later switched to Hindi.
1916 – Shirley Jackson, highly influential, award-winning U.S. mystery and horror writer of novels, memoirs, and short stories; she is best known for her short story, “The Lottery.”
1917 – Tove Ditlevsen, Danish poet, essayist, novelist, short-story writer, and memoirist who at the time of her death was one of the most widely read Danish authors.
1920 – Rosemary Sutcliff, English novelist, children’s writer, and screenwriter who was best known for her children’s books, especially historical fiction and retellings of myths and legends.
1929 – Charles W. Ryan, U.S. technical writer and nonfiction book author.
1938 – Leonardo Boff, Brazilian priest, theologian, and writer.
1940 – Carolyn Marie Rodgers, U.S. African-American poet, playwright, short-story author, and founder of one of the country’s oldest and largest Black presses; a founder of the Black Arts movement.
1943 – Merlie M. Alunan, award-winning Filipina poet, nonfiction writer, anthology editor, and educator.
1943 – Nancy Thayer, prolific U.S. author whose novels include Summer House, Beachcombers, and Three Women At The Water’s Edge.
1945 – Stanley Crouch, U.S. poet, music and cultural critic, syndicated columnist, novelist, and biographer, perhaps best known for his jazz criticism and his novel, Don’t the Moon Look Lonesome.
1948 – Stephen Adei, Ghanaian writer, economist, professor, and entrepreneur.
1948 – Boudewijn Maria Ignatius Büch, Dutch poet, author, and television personality.
1951 – Amy Hempel, PEN/Faulkner-nominated U.S. short-story writer, journalist, and professor.
1966 – Lucrecia Martel, acclaimed Argentinian screenwriter and film director.
1966 – Sarah Zettel, U.S. science-fiction, fantasy, and mystery author.
1968 – Kelley Armstrong, bestselling Canadian author of fantasy, mystery, romance, and crime novels.
1968 – Rachel Cohn, American author of bestselling children’s, young-adult, and adult fiction; her work includes three books with dual narrators, in which she wrote the female point of view herself and had coauthor David Levithan write the male point of view.
1984 – Prerna Lal, Fiji-born U.S. author and immigration attorney who founded DreamActivist, an online advocacy network, and is a frequent writer on immigration, racial justice, sexual orientation, and the ways in which those forces intersect.