1596 – René Descartes, influential French philosopher, mathematician, and scientist whose writings are considered the foundation of modern philosophy.
1601 – Giacomo Micaglia (Latin: Jacobus Micalia; Croatian: Jakov Mikalja), Italian author, linguist, lexicographer, and religious writer of Slavic ancestry who called himself “an Italian of Slavic language.” His masterwork is Thesaurus of Slovinian Language and Slovinian Dictionary (Where Croatian Words are tTranslated in Italian and Latin).
1725 – Élisabeth Guibert, French writer, poet, and playwright, many of whose plays were inspired by classical themes; one critic said called her works, “remarkable for their ease and wit.”
1778 – Coenraad Jacob Temminck, Dutch writer, zoologist, biologist, ornithologist, botanist, and museum director.
1810 – Hayyim Selig Slonimski, award-winning Polish and Russian Hebrew publisher, editor, author, rabbi, writer, journalist, astronomer, science writer, textbook writer, essayist, inventor, and mathematician; he was among the first to write books on science for a broad Jewish audience, and was the founder of Ha-Tsfira, the first Hebrew-language newspaper with an emphasis on the sciences. He was also known by his acronym ḤaZaS.
1815 – Mary Whitcher, U.S. author, poet, teacher, cookbook writer, deaconess, and trustee of the Canterbury Shaker Village.
1823 – Mary Boykin Chestnut, U.S. author from South Carolina known for her published Civil War Diary, which described the war from within her upper-class circles of Southern planter society, but encompassed all classes.
1823 – Alexander Nikolayevich Ostrovsky, prolific Russian playwright, who is generally considered the greatest representative of the Russian realistic period, who “almost single-handedly created a Russian national repertoire”; his dramas are among the most widely read and frequently performed stage pieces in Russia.
1828 – José María Samper (full name José María Balbino Venancio Samper Agudelo), Colombian writer, poet, playwright, novelist, editor, comedy writer, biographer, essayist, travel writer, critic, lawyer, and politician.
1838 – Léon Dierx, award-winning French poet, writer, painter, and sculptor.
1844 – Andrew Lang, Scottish poet, novelist, journalist, historian, translator, essayist, editor, literary critic, anthropologist, and Homeric scholar who was one of the founders of the field of psychical research, but who is best known as a collector of folk and fairy tales.
1846 – Lindaura Anzoátegui Campero, Bolivian writer, poet, historical novelist, short-story writer, and First Lady of Bolivia.
1858 – Hypatia Bradlaugh Bonner, British author, biographer, peace activist, secularist, educator, and freethinker who was the first openly atheist Member of Parliament.
1860 – Afonso Ceso (real name Afonso Celso de Assis Figueiredo Júnior, or Count of Afonso Ceso), Brazilian writer, poet, novelist, journalist, author, historian politician, lawyer, and university teacher who was one of the founders of the Brazilian Academy of Letters.
1866 – Melita Aitken, Canadian writer, poet, and artist.
1872 – Alexandra Mikhailovna Kollontai, Russian revolutionary, politician, novelist, nonfiction author, autobiographer, diplomat, women’s rights leader, and Marxist theoretician; she served as the People’s Commissar for Welfare in Vladimir Lenin’s government, making her a highly prominent woman within the Bolshevik party.
1872 – Leopoldine Kulka, Austrian writer, editor, translator, opinion journalist, and peace activist who was the first woman lecturer at the University of Vienna.
1884 – Teodoro Kalaw, Filipino writer, historian, biographer, legislator, and scholar who studied Filipino nationalist writer Jose Rizal’s life and writings.
1887 – Elisaveta Ivanovna Dmitrieva, Russian writer, poet, and playwright who was more famously known by her literary pseudonym, Cherubina de Gabriak.
1891 – Esther Kreitman (also known as Hinde Ester Singer Kreytman), Polish Jewish writer, translator, novelist, and short-story writer who wrote in Yiddish; her younger brothers Israel Joshua Singer and Isaac Bashevis Singer also became writers.
1891 – Ester Blenda Elisabet Nordström, Swedish investigative journalist, nonfiction writer, novelist, children’s author, explorer, and travel writer who has been compared to author Bruce Chatwin; she often published her writing under the pen name Bansai, but also worked as a journalist using the pen name The Boy. She wrote about her experiences touring around Sweden by motorcycle, hitchhiking alone across the U.S., and exploring Kamchatka; she also wrote a series of young-adult novels about strong, independent girls who, unusually for literature of the time, did not have marriage as their ultimate goal. It was said that everyone she encountered, male and female, fell in love with her.
1900 – Lőrinc Szabó, award-winning Hungarian poet, writer, and translator.
1912 – William Lederer, U.S. naval officer, novelist, and nonfiction writer, best known for co-authoring the political novel The Ugly American, which was adapted into a film.
1914 – Octavio Paz, Nobel Prize-winning Mexican writer, poet, playwright, essayist, professor, and diplomat, celebrated “for impassioned writing with wide horizons, characterized by sensuous intelligence and humanistic integrity.”
1916 – Zoé Oldenbourg, Russian-born French historian and novelist who specialized in medieval French history, in particular the Crusades and Cathars; her early work was written in Russian, but after that she wrote exclusively in French. Her historical novels were praised for combining a high level of scholarship with a deep feeling for the Middle Ages.
1917 – Juntree Siriboonrod, Thai novelist and science-fiction writer who is regarded as the “father of Thai science fiction.”
1919 – Stefán Hörður Grímsson, Icelandic Modernist poet and author who was one of the Atom Poets.
1920 – Marga Minco (pseudonym of Sara Menco) Dutch journalist, writer, and existential novelist; as a Jew, she went into hiding during World War II and was the only member of her family to survive the Holocaust.
1922 – Kambisseri Karunakaran, Indian writer, editor, journalist, and children’s writer who wrote in the Malayalam language.Beside being a journalist he was a politician, orator, actor, satirist and rationalist.
1924 – Leo Buscaglia, U.S. author, professor, and motivational speaker.
1926 – John Fowles, English modernist and postmodernist novelist, best known for his period romance The French Lieutenant’s Woman.
1926 – Beni Montresor, Caldecott Medal-winning Italian artist, author, children’s book illustrator, opera and film director, and set designer, knighted by the Italian government for his contributions to the arts.
1932 – John Jakes, bestselling U.S. author known for several multi-book series of historical fiction sagas that span American history; he has also used the pen name Jay Scotland.
1934 – Kamala Surayya, Indian writer, poet, short-story writer, columnist, and autobiographer who wrote both in English and Malayalam, with her work in English published under the name Kamala Das; she wrote on diverse topics including women’s issues, child care, and politics, and was noted for her open and honest treatment of female sexuality.
1935 – Judith Rossner, U.S. novelist whose bestselling book Looking for Mr. Goodbar is her best known work.
1936 – Marge Piercy, bestselling U.S. novelist, poet, memoirist, and political activist; her works vary from science fiction to historical novels and sometimes incorporate Jewish mysticism and folklore, but all of them focus on the lives of women.
1939 – Ifeanyichukwu Ndubuisi Chikezie Aniebo (commonly known as I.N.C. Aniebo), Nigerian novelist and short-story writer, who has been called, “the master craftsman of the Nigerian short story.”
1948 – Al Gore (full name Albert Arnold Gore, Jr.), U.S. politician, author, journalist, businessperson, lecturer, environmentalist, and climate activist who was the 45th U.S. Vice President; he written many books and articles on government, technology, and global climate change. His best known book is An Inconvenient Truth: The Planetary Emergency of Global Warming and What We Can Do About It. He has won the Nobel Peace Prize, an Academy Award, and a Grammy Award.
1950 – Haldhar Nag, award-winning Indian Sambalpuri poet and writer.
1960 – Ian McDonald, British science-fiction novelist whose themes include nanotechnology, postcyberpunk settings, and the impact of rapid social and technological change on non-Western societies.