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 and U.S. 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 – Mary Jobe Akeley, U.S. author, photographer, travel writer, nature writer, academic, naturalist, environmentalist, explorer, lecturer, and mountaineer who undertook expeditions in the Canadian Rockies and in the Belgian Congo and was an early advocate of game preserves; she also founded Camp Mystic, an outdoor camp for girls.
1878 – Sakuzō Yoshino, Japanese writer, historian, essayist, political scientist, and professor who formulated the theory of Minponshugi, or politics of the people.
1890 – Sushil Kumar De, Indian Bengali writer, lawyer, linguist, professor, literary critic, and polymath who wrote extensively on Sanskrit literature, philosophy, poetics, and the history of Bengali literature.
1895 – Muna Lee, U.S. Puerto Rican poet, author, translator, and activist, best known for her writings promoting Pan-Americanism and feminism.
1899 – Qu Qiubai, Chinese writer, politician, translator, journalist, literary critic, and Communist party leader.
1901 – Arcady Ivanovich Aris, Russian Chuvash writer and critic who is considered one of the founders of Chuvash literary criticism; he was the cousin of Chuvash folklorist Nikolai Yut.
1903 – Vân Ðài (pseudonym for Ðào Thị Nguyệt Minh), key Vietnamese poet and one of the founders of the New Poetry style; her work is closely associated with the Resistance during the Vietnam War.
1903 – Viña Delmar, U.S. playwright, screenwriter, novelist, and short-story writer who rose to fame in the late 1920s with the publication of her suggestively titled bestselling novel, Bad Girl; she also wrote the screenplay to the screwball comedy, The Awful Truth, for which she received an Academy Award nomination.
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.
1909 – Phoebe Hesketh, English poet, author, editor, journalist, lecturer, biographer, and semi-autobiographical prose writer who was best known for her poems depicting nature.
1914 – Shichiro Fukazawa, award-winning Japanese novelist, short-story writer, screenwriter, and guitarist; he is most remembered for his satirical 1960 short story “Fūryū mutan” (“Tale of an Elegant Dream”), which caused a nationwide uproar and led to an attempt by an ultranationalist to assassinate the president of the magazine that published it.
1915 – Bill Peet, U.S. children’s book author and illustrator who also wrote for Disney.
1920 – José Luis de Vilallonga (shortened form of José Luis de Vilallonga y Cabeza de Vaca, 9th Marquess of Castellbell), Spanish novelist, biographer, and actor who rose to prominence when he co-starred with Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and Julie Christie in Darling.
1921 – Mohamed Aïchaoui, Algerian journalist and militant in the nationalist movement against French Algeria; he is best known for writing the “Declaration of 1 November 1954,” the National Liberation Front’s first appeal to the Algerian people at the start of the Algerian War.
1921 – Myokyo-ni (born Irmgard Schlögl) Austrian Rinzai Zen Buddhist nun, writer, translator, and geologist who has written and translated books on Zen and Buddhism.
1923 – Rella Aylestock Braithwaite, Lebanese-born Canadian author, columnist, instructional designer, and school board member who wrote a newspaper column on Black history, developed a Black Studies guide for classroom ruse, and wrote the book, The Black Woman in Canada, about outstanding Canadian Black women.
1923 – Paddy Chayefsky, U.S. screenwriter, playwright, and novelist; he is the only person to win three solo Oscars for Best Screenplay.
1925 – Isidore Isou (born Isidor Goldstein), Romanian-born French poet, novelist, playwright, philosopher, film critic, film director, economist, and visual artist who was a key figure in the mid-20th century avant-garde and the founder of Lettrism, an art and literary movement inspired by Dada and Surrealism.
1925 – Nathan Shaham, award-winning Israeli novelist, playwright, nonfiction author, and literary editor.
1926 – Dennis McEldowney, award-winning New Zealand writer, editor, and publisher.
1927 – Edward Abbey, U.S. novelist, nonfiction author, essayist, and anarchist who wrote on environmental issues.
1929 – Antonije Ðuric, Serbian journalist, author, historian, and publicist.
1929 – Józef Gara, Polish poet and miner who spoke and wrote in an endangered language of Wilamowice, Wymysorys, which had only 70 native speakers; he created the Wymysorys alphabet, collected traditional Wymysorys songs, and taught the language to schoolchildren.
1930 – Christopher Collier, Pulitzer Prize-nominated U.S. historian who is also a Newbery Honor-winning author of history-based novels for children and teens.
1930 – Cheon Sang-byeong (천상병), South Korean writer and poet whose work avoided artificial technique and excessive and decorative language, and instead embraced raw emotion and unforced simplicity, while candidly exploring weighty existential problems.
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 U.S. author and illustrator of children’s books; creator of the “Max & Ruby” series.
1954 – Oprah Winfrey, U.S. media magnate, television personality, philanthropist, author, magazine publisher, Academy Award-nominated actress, and inspiration for book clubs all over the country.
1957 – Grazyna Miller, award-winning Polish poet, translator, and literary critic who lived in Italy.
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.
1988 – Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀, award-winning Nigerian novelist, short-story writer, and nonfiction writer who was listed by the Financial Times as one of the “bright stars of Nigerian literature”; the New York Times has said, “She writes not just with extraordinary grace but with genuine wisdom about love and loss and the possibility of redemption.”