1181 – Ibn al-Farid, Egyptian Sufi poet, writer, and philosopher who was esteemed as the greatest of all Arab mystic poets.
1554 – Catherine de Parthenay, French writer, poet, playwright, mathematician, and patron of the arts; she was considered one of the most brilliant women of her era.
1712 – Edward Moore, English dramatist and poet; he is best known for his tragic play The Gamester, which is the source of his oft-quoted phrase “rich beyond the dreams of avarice.”
1759 – Hedwig Elisabeth Charlotte of Holstein-Gottorp, famed German-born diarist, memoirist, and wit who was Queen of Sweden and Norway; her official name as queen was Charlotta.
1771 – Heinrich D. Zschokke, German and Swiss author, magazine founder, nonfiction writer, short-story writer, and reformer; according to the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica, “Zschokke was not a great original writer, but he secured an eminent place in the literature of his time by his enthusiasm for modern ideas in politics and religion, by the sound, practical judgment displayed in his works, and by the energy and lucidity of his style.”
1777 – Claire, Duchess of Duras (née de Kersaint). French writer best known for her novel Ourika, which examines issues of racial and sexual equality; it inspired the John Fowles novel The French Lieutenant’s Woman.
1808 – Caroline Norton, English feminist author, poet, playwright, composer, and social reformer; when she left her husband, he sued Lord Melbourne, then Prime Minister, for adultery, and though the court threw out the suit, she lost access to her children. Her efforts to help women unfairly denied custody to their children led to the passage of the Custody of Infants Act 1839, the Matrimonial Causes Act 1857, and the Married Women’s Property Act 1870.
1846 – Randolph Caldecott, British artist and illustrator who was influential in the field of children’s book art; the Caldecott Medal is named for him.
1889 – Lidiia Seifullina, Russian novelist, playwright, short-story writer, journalist, librarian, teacher, and actor. She is best known for her short story “Virineia,” about a peasant woman who, having become a believer in Soviet ideals, begins to chafe at the restrictions placed on her by traditional patriarchal society; the story is the basis for an opera by Sergei Slonimsky.
1901 – Gabrielle Roy, influential and critically acclaimed French-Canadian author.
1908 – Louis L’Amour, popular and prolific U.S. novelist, poet, and short-story writer of the American West; his books consisted primarily of Western novels, but he also wrote historical fiction, science fiction, and nonfiction.
1908 – Elisabeth Dored, Norwegian writer, novelist, journalist, and artist.
1908 – Albrecht Goes, award-winning German poet, novelist, and theologian; his novel Das Brandopfer (The Burnt Offering), which examines the Holocaust from the perspective of an ordinary butcher’s wife, is considered a significant contribution to the dialogue and reconciliation between Jews and Christians in the post-Third Reich era. It is one of several of his works that were adapted for film or television.
1909 – Gabrielle Roy, French-Canadian novelist, short-story writer, and teacher.
1910 – Nicholas Montserrat, British author of sea stories inspired by his time the Royal Naval Reserve.
1911 – Jack Popplewell, British author, playwright, songwriter, and rhubarb farmer.
1917 – Zuzanna Ginczanka, Polish Jewish writer, poet, translator, and linguist who evaded the Nazis for several years during World War II but was arrested and executed shortly before the end of the war; hers has been called, “the most moving voice in Polish lyrical literature, for it deals with the most terrible tragedy of our time.”
1919 – Isidora Aguirre Tupper, Chilean author and playwright who wrote about social issues; her best known work is the play La Pérgola de las Flores, which, constitutes “one of the milestones in the history of Chilean theater in the second half of the 20th century.”
1921 – Elena Lacková (née Elena Doktorová; also known as Ilona Lacková), Slovak Romani writer, playwright, educator, and social worker who is best remembered as an author of literature for Roma children and youth.
1922 – Stewart Stern, Emmy Award-winning U.S. screenwriter; twice Oscar-nominated, he was best known for the James Dean film Rebel Without a Cause.
1929 – Yayoi Kusama, Japanese contemporary artist, poet, novelist, sculptor, and filmmaker whose work is inspired by American Abstract Impressionism and conceptual art; incorporates feminism, minimalism, surrealism, and pop art; and is infused with autobiographical, psychological, and sexual content. She has been acknowledged as one of Japan’s most important living artists.
1930 – Stephen Sondheim, Tony Award-winning U.S. lyricist, best known for the musical West Side Story; one of the most important figures in 20th-century musical theater, he was credited with having reinvented the American musical, with shows that tackle unexpected themes, complex music and lyrics, and darker elements of the human experience. Recognition included, among other awards, an Academy Award, eight Tony Awards, eight Grammy Awards, and a Pulitzer Prize.
1931 – Igor Hajek, Czech writer, editor, and translator.
1931 – Anna Piaggi, Italian fashion writer, translator, journalist, and style icon; she was known for her bright blue hair, her excessive make-up, and a personal aesthetic that mixed vintage and contemporary fashion.
1931 – William Shatner, Canadian actor, starship captain, and author of the TekWar series of science-fiction books.
1931 – Leslie Thomas, major Welsh-born British author, journalist, and autobiographer.
1933 – Eveline Hasler, Swiss author, psychologist, historian, and teacher who has written novels for both children and adults.
1940 – Haing Somnang Ngor, Cambodian-born physician, actor, and memoirist who survived three terms in Cambodian prison camps using his medical knowledge to keep himself alive by eating beetles, termites, and scorpions; he eventually crawled between Khmer Rouge and Vietnamese lines to safety in a Red Cross refugee camp and later settled in the U.S.; he is best remembered for winning an Oscar for playing Cambodian journalist and refugee Dith Pran in the film The Killing Fields, and for his memoir, Haing Ngor: A Cambodian Odyssey. He was murdered in a robbery outside his home in Los Angeles in 1956.
1940 – Margherita Oggero, Italian screenwriter, author, and children’s writer.
1941 – Billy Collins, poet, professor, and U.S. Poet Laureate; the New York Times once called him “the most popular poet in America.”
1943 – Houston A. Baker, Jr., award-winning U.S. essayist and literary critic whose focus is on defining the African-American literary tradition.
1943 – Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz, Cuban-born Roman Catholic writer, theologian, philosopher, and professor.
1946 – Rudy Rucker, U.S. science-fiction author, mathematician, and computer scientist; one of the founders of cyberpunk fiction.
1947 – James Patterson, popular U.S. author of bestselling adult thrillers and young-adult novels.
1948 – Wolf Blitzer, German-born, U.S.-based journalist, author, and television news anchor who has also worked in Israel.
1951 – Tuula Kallioniemi, award-winning author of Finnish children’s literature; many of her books are about the lives of teacher Aapeli Käki and the pupils in a fictional elementary school in Finland.
1957 – Monika Zgustová, Czech writer and translator who is a key figure in the introduction of Czech literature in Spain, translating it into both Spanish and Catalan.
1958 – Saifuddin “Saiffi” Jalal (pseudonym Mayparast Jalal), Afghan philosopher, writer, and poet.
1970 – Lucy Cooke, British zoologist, author, and television presenter who has written books on wildlife; she is especially known for her books about sloths: A Little Book of Sloth, The Power of Sloth, and Life in the Sloth Lane: Slow Down and Smell the Hibiscus.
1974 – Gabriela Aguileta Estrada, award-winning Mexican writer of children’s books and short stories who is also a scientist.
1975 – Ndidi Okonkwo Nwuneli, award-winning Nigerian author and entrepreneur whose work has shaped agriculture strategy and policy in West Africa.
1976 – Yu Xiuhua, Chinese poet who has written more than 2,000 poems, despite speech and mobility difficulties due to her cerebral palsy.