December 17 Writer Birthdays

1556 – Abdul Rahim Khan-I-Khana, Indian Muslim poet and government minister, also known as simply Rahim; he was known for his Hindi dohe (couplets) and his books on astrology.

1706 – Émilie du Châtelet (full name Gabrielle Émilie Le Tonnelier de Breteuil, Marquise du Châtelet), French natural philosopher, mathematician, writer, and translator whose most recognized achievement is her translation of and commentary on Isaac Newton’s 1687 book Principia; her commentary includes a profound contribution to Newtonian mechanics—the postulate of an additional conservation law for total energy, of which kinetic energy of motion is one element.

1807 – John Greenleaf Whittier, U.S. Quaker poet, author, and abolitionist who was one of the Fireside Poets, a group of popular 18th-century poets associated with New England; their work was known for domestic themes and messages of morality, presented in conventional poetic forms.

1823 – Teréz Ferenczy, Hungarian poet who was only just beginning to see her works published when her shocking suicide brought her poems to wider prominence, with most of them published posthumously.

1830 – Jules de Goncourt, French novelist who published books together with his brother Edmond.

1873 – Ford Madox Ford (born Joseph Leopold Ford Hermann Madox Hueffer), prolific English novelist, poet, essayist, memoirist, critic, and editor best known for his novel The Good Soldier.

1884 – Alison Uttley (born Alice Jane Taylor), prolific English novelist, essayist, short-story writer, and children’s author, bests known for a children’s series about Little Grey Rabbit and Sam Pig, and for a pioneering timeslip novel for children, A Traveller in Time, about the imprisoned Mary, Queen of Scots.

1894 – Margaret Mary Leigh, English poet and novelist who lived in Scotland and wrote about life in crofting communities; she was the cousin of novelist Dorothy L.

1900 – Mary Lucy Cartwright, groundbreaking British mathematician and author who was one of the pioneers of what would later become known as chaos theory.

1903 – Erskine Caldwell, U.S. novelist, autobiographer, nonfiction author, essayist, and short-story writer who wrote about poverty, racism, and social issues.

1907 – Christianna Brand, Malaysian-born British screenwriter, crime writer, children’s author, short-story writer, and novelist who wrote under various pseudonyms, including Mary Ann Ashe, Mary Brand, Annabel Jones, Mary Roland, and China Thompson.

1908 – Sylvia Constance Ashton-Warner, New Zealand writer, poet, novelist, autobiographer, and educator.

1916 – Penelope Fitzgerald, Booker Prize-winning British author of historical fiction; the Times included her in its list of the 50 Greatest British Writers Since 1945.

1919 – Es’kia Mphahlele, South African fiction writer and human-rights activist.

1921 – Anne Golon, French author, screenwriter, and journalist who is better known to English-speaking readers as Sergeanne Golon; her most famous work is a series of novels about a heroine named Angelique.

1926 – Solomon Adeboye Babalola, Nigerian poet, professor, and translator who wrote English translations of Yoruba oral poetry and traditional chants.

1929 – William Safire, U.S. author, columnist, journalist, and presidential speechwriter, best known for his novels and for his works on writing, language, and politics.

1931 – Yvonne Keuls, Indonesian-born Dutch writer and quiz show panelist who writes award-winning novels about social problems, as well as about herself and her family, in a realistic and sometimes humorous way.

1937 – John Kennedy Toole, U.S. author of A Confederacy of Dunces; his inability to have the book published deepened his depression and feelings of persecution, and he committed suicide. The book was published posthumously and received great acclaim, including a Pulitzer Prize. His only other novel, The Neon Bible, written when he was 16, was also published after his death.

1939 – Chong Hyon-jong, South Korean writer, reporter, poet, and professor whose poetry explores the dynamic tension between pain and happiness, and between reality and dream; his later work explores the acceptance of life and the wonders of nature, focusing on reconciliation rather than conflict.

1939 – Mustapha Matura (born Noel Matura), Trinidadian playwright and poet who lived in London most of his life and was called “the most perceptive and humane of Black dramatists writing in Britain.”

1944 – Jack L. Chalker, U.S. science-fiction novelist and short-story writer who was also a teacher.

1945 – Jacqueline Wilson, three-time Newbery Honor-winning U.S. poet and author of books for children and teens.

1947 – Golrokhsar Safi, Tajikistani writer, poet, newspaper editor, and prominent Iranologist who is knwon for her contributions to modern Persian poetry and folk songs and for being Tajikistan’s national poet.

1974 – Nika Georgievna Turbina, Russian poet famous for her profound and emotional poems; she published her first collection of poetry at the age of 10.

1987 – Joshua Jennifer Espinoza, U.S. writer and poet; her work covers such topics as mental illness and coming out as a transgender woman, as well as more traditional subjects such as love, anger, and beauty.

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