1095 – Usama ibn Munqidh, Syrian poet, author, historian, soldier, and diplomat who is now remembered not as much for his poetry, as for his Kitab al-I’tibar (Book of Learning by Example or Book of Contemplation), which contains lengthy descriptions of the crusaders, based on his personal relationships with some of them.
1509 – John Calvin, French theologian, pastor, and reformer who wrote bible commentaries, treatises, and many of the foundation documents for reformed churches.
1640 – Aphra Behn, influential English writer, poet, playwright, novelist, translator, and feminist who was one of the first English women to earn her living by her writing.
1735 – Giovanni Bertati, Italian writer and librettist who held the title of Poeta Cesareo (Imperial Poet) of the Italian Opera in Vienna.
1794 – Mary Hutton, English author and poet who wrote about both historical events and contemporary issues.
1796 – María Josefa García Granados, Guatemalan writer, poet, journalist, and feminist thinker who was one of the greatest intellectual exponents for the independence of Guatemala.
1807 – Karolina Pavlova, Russian poet, writer, novelist, translator, and salonnière.
1845 – Dolors Monserdà, Spanish writer, poet, storyteller, playwright, essayist, journalist, and columnist; she wrote in both Spanish and Catalan.
1856 – Nikola Tesla, Serbian, Austrian, and U.S. scientist, inventor, and engineer who wrote books and articles about his work, including an autobiography; he is best known for his work with electricity; among his discoveries: fluorescent light, laser beams, wireless communications, remote control, and more; his alternating-current induction motor is considered one of the ten greatest inventions ever, and a unit of magnetic field strength is named tesla after him. His mother, Djuka Mandic, was also an inventor, despite the fact that she was illiterate.
1863 – Sergei Lvovich Tolstoy, Russian Count who was a writer, folklorist, composer, and ethnomusicologist; he was among the first Europeans to make an in-depth study of the music of India. He was the son of famed novelist Leo Tolstoy.
1871 – Marcel Proust, French novelist and short-story writer, best known for his seven-volume autobiographical stream-of-consciousness novel, À la recherche du temps perdu, which is currently translated as In Search of Lost Time but is also known as Remembrance of Things Past. He died before he could complete the last three volumes; they were edited by his brother and published posthumously.
1868 – Afäwarq Gäbrä Iyäsus, Ethiopian writer who wrote the first novel in Amharic. One critic said of his work, “Few people before or after him have demonstrated such superb mastery of the Amharic language.” His name has been misspelled as Afevork Ghevre-Jesus, Afeworq Gebre Iyesus, and Afewark Gebre Iyasus.
1868 – Růžena Svobodová, Czech writer, author, and magazine founder whose novels and short stories often focused on the lives of women.
1875 – Edmund Clerihew Bentley, English novelist and humorist; after whom is named the clerihew, an irregular form of humorous verse on biographical topics; he is also credited with writing the first modern detective novel.
1885 – Mary O’Hara, U.S. author of fiction, nonfiction, autobiography, and children’s books; she was also a screenwriter, rancher, pianist, and composer; her most famous book is My Friend Flicka.
1887 – Sulo Arvi Pohjanpää, Finnish playwright, short-story writer, judge, and Olympic gymnast.
1888 – Toyohiko Kagawa, Japanese writer, politician, pastor, economist, and trade unionist who established schools and hospitals to help the poor.
1895 – Carl Orff, German writer, composer, musician, university teacher, librettist, musicologist, music theorist, and music pedagogue.
1896 – Marie Thérèse Casgrain, French-Canadian writer, reformer, and senator; she was a leader in the fight for women’s right to vote in the province of Quebec, as well as the first woman to lead a political party in Canada.
1903 – John Wyndham (pen name of John Wyndham Parkes Lucas Beynon Harris), English science-fiction writer known for post-apocalyptic novels; he also wrote under the names John Beynon and Lucas Parkes.
1905 – Mildred Wirt Benson, U.S. journalist and children’s book author who wrote 23 early Nancy Drew mystery books under the pen name Carolyn Keene; she also wrote the Girl Scouts mystery series, and many other books, and was a pilot, amateur archaeologist, and adventurer.
1905 – Ernestina de Champourcín, Spanish writer and poet who was part of the Generation of ’27 artistic movement.
1905 – Eric Rosenthal, South African historian, author, journalist, and attorney who was a member of the Three Wise Men on Springbok Radio’s long-running quiz show, Test the Team.
1914 – Thein Pe Myint, Burmese writer, journalist, politician, and leading Marxist intellectual who played a key role in the Burmese independence movement.
1916 – Judith Jasmin, groundbreaking Canadian journalist and broadcaster.
1916 – Martin Provensen, Caldecott Medal-winning U.S. writer and illustrator of children’s books, who collaborated with his wife Alice Rose Provensen on many titles.
1922 – Jean Kerr, U.S. author and playwright whose best-known book was a collection of humorous essays, Please Don’t Eat the Daisies, which was made into a film and TV series; she was married to Pulitzer Prize-winning drama critic Walter Kerr.
1923 – Earl Henry Hamner Jr., U.S. novelist, screenwriter, and television producer who was best known for his work in the 1970s and 1980s on the long-running series The Waltons; as a novelist, he was best known for Spencer’s Mountain, which was inspired by his own childhood and formed the basis for both the film of the same name and the television series The Waltons, for which he provided voice-over narration.
1926 – Fred Gwynne, six-foot, five-inch U.S. actor best known as television’s Herman Munster; he also wrote and illustrated children’s books.
1928 – Ulrich Libbrecht, Belgian author, philosopher, and university teacher; his best known work consists of four volumes, written in Dutch, his Introduction to Comparative Philosophy.
1930 – André Damien, French writer, lawyer, and politician who authored many books on legal and historical subjects; he also served as the head of the French Bar Association, a Supreme Court Justice in France, and the Mayor of Versailles.
1931 – Julian Clare May, U.S. science-fiction, fantasy, horror, and children’s book author who has also written science articles for encyclopedias and two episodes of the Buck Rogers comic strip.
1931 – Alice Munro, Nobel Prize-winning Canadian short-story author.
1951 – Arja Uusitalo, Finnish poet, journalist, editor, and broadcaster who wrote in Swedish as well as Finnish.