1623 – Blaise Pascal, French child prodigy who grew up to be a writer, mathematician, physicist, inventor, and Catholic theologian; he made important contributions to the study of fluids, clarified the concepts of pressure and vacuum, and wrote in defense of the scientific method.
1782 – Hugues Felicité Robert de Lamennais, French priest, writer, theologian, philosopher, politician, and political theorist who was considered one of the most influential intellectuals of Restoration France and a forerunner of liberal and social Catholicism.
1861 – Jose Rizal, Filipino journalist, fiction author, poet, and revolutionary who heralded as a national hero after his execution.
1900 – Laura Z. Hobson, U.S. author best known for Gentleman’s Agreement, a novel that explored antisemitism in the United States.
1909 – Osamu Dazai (born Shūji Tsushima), Japanese novelist and short-story writer who was one of the foremost fiction writers of 20th-century Japan.
1909 – Henryka Wanda Lazowertówna (also called Henryka Lazowert), Polish lyric poet who is considered one of the eminent Polish writers of Jewish descent, best known for her poem, The Little Smuggler (written in the Warsaw ghetto and published posthumously) about a child struggling to keep his family alive in the ghetto by smuggling provisions from the “Aryan” side at the risk of his own life. Her work, while deeply personal and of great emotional intensity, also touched on social concerns and had patriotic overtones. Lazowertówna died in 1942 in the Treblinka extermination camp.
1918 – Mary TallMountain, Alaska-born U.S. writer, poet, and storyteller of mixed Scotch-Irish and Koyukon Indian ancestry; her works deal with the interplay of Christianity with indigenous beliefs and the difficulties of her own life.
1919 – Malika al-Fassi, Moroccan writer, journalist, novelist, playwright, and nationalist; she was the only woman to sign the independence treaty of Morocco in 1944. She also wrote under the pseudonyms El Fatate and Bahitate El Hadira.
1919 – Pauline Kael, U.S. author and New Yorker magazine film critic.
1920 – Eliana Navarro Barahona, award-winning Chilean poet and librarian whose works were being published from the time she was 14 year old.
1921 – Patricia Wrightson, award-winning Australian author, children’s writer, and film editor who is best remembered for her works of magic realism; she was also one of the first Australian authors to write children’s books drawing on Australian Aboriginal mythology.
1923 – Ruth Bondy, award-winning Czech-Israeli journalist and translator who was a Holocaust survivor.
1924 – Paco Ignacio Taibo I, Mexican writer, journalist, and restaurateur.
1939 – Yuri Timofeyevich Galanskov, Russian poet, historian, human rights activist, and dissident; who was incarcerated for his political activities and died in a labor camp.
1942 – Merata Mita, New Zealand Māori screenwriter and film director who was a key figure in Māori filmmaking; she is best known for her documentaries Patu!, about violent clashes between anti-apartheid protesters and police during the 1981 South African rugby tours in New Zealand, and Bastion Point: Day 507, about the eviction of the Ngāti Whātua people from their traditional lands.
1945 – Françoise Chandernagor, French novelist, biographer, and playwright; some of her books have been adapted for television.
1945 – Aung San Suu Kyi, Nobel Prize-winning Burmese political leader, writer, and human rights activist.
1945 – Tobias Wolff, award-winning U.S. novelist and memoirist, short-story writer, and teacher whose best known works are his memoirs, particularly This Boy’s Life and In Pharaoh’s Army.
1947 – Salman Rushdie, Booker Prize-winning British Indian author who sparked worldwide controversy with his magic realist novel The Satanic Verses.
1947 – John Ralston Saul, Canadian novelist and essayist; president of the writer’s association PEN International.
1948 – Carmen Rodríguez, Chilean-Canadian author, poet, educator, and political social activist; she was also a founding member of Aquelarre Magazine; she was born in Chile but fled to Canada as a political refugee after the Chilean Coup of 1973.
1949 – Marilyn Kaye, prolific U.S. author, children’s writer, science-fiction writer, and children’s literature scholar.
1952 – Angie Sage, English author, children’s writer, and illustrator; she is best known as the author of the Septimus Heap series and the Araminta Spook series (known as Araminta Spookie in the U.S.)
1958 – Seno Gumira Ajidarma, award-winning U.S.-born Indonesian author of short stories, essays, and movie scripts; he is also known as a journalist, photographer, and lecturer.
1960 – Myriam Cyr, Canadian actress and writer whose best known written work is the nonfiction book Letters of a Portuguese Nun: Uncovering the Mystery Behind a 17th Century Forbidden Love.
1960 – Marga Gomez, U.S.-born Puerto Rican and Cuban-American comedian, playwright, and humorist.
1970 – Gerður Kristný, Icelandic poet; she has also written short stories, novels, and children’s books.
1973 – Baby Halder (or Haldar), Indian author of an acclaimed autobiography Aalo Aandhari (A Life Less Ordinary), which describes her harsh life growing up as a domestic worker and child bride; she became interested in writing after a professor she was working for noticed her fascination with books when she was dusting his bookshelves and encouraged her to read.