0953 – Al-Karaji, Persian mathematician and engineer who pioneered the theory of algebraic calculus and wrote groundbreaking works on mathematics.
1508 – Jean Daurat, French poet, writer, and Classical scholar who was a member of a group of Renaissance poets known as The Pléiade.
1553 – Maddalena Campiglia, Italian poet, writer, and fabulist who was known for her writings that were both religious and noncomformist; for example, she extolled the value of virginity, not as a constraint, but as an effective means of achieving female independence from men, and wrote about the love between women.
1743 – Thomas Jefferson, third U.S. President who was the author of some of the most influential documents in American history, including the Declaration of Independence and the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom; he was also a lawyer, farmer, inventor, architect, scientist, paleontologist, violinist, and university founder, though his legacy is tarnished by his status as a slave owner. At a White House dinner for Nobel Prize winners, President John F. Kennedy said, “This is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered together at the White House, with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.”
1759 – William Thomas Fitzgerald, British poet who has been described as “one of the foremost loyalist versifiers of his day,” for writing patriotic poetry during the Napoleonic Wars. Today, he is remembered more for being scorned by other poets of his day as “the Small Beer Poet”; Lord Byron immortalized him in the opening line of his English Bards and Scotch Reviewers: “Still must I hear? — shall hoarse Fitzgerald bawl / His creaking couplets in a tavern hall….”
1799 – Ludwig Rellstab, German writer, poet, lyricist, journalist, and pianist, who was one of the most influential music critics of his time; his poetry was used as lyrics to pieces by Schubert and Liszt, and he is credited with giving Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 14 in C-sharp minor, Op. 27/2, its famous nickname, the Moonlight Sonata.
1849 – Enrique José Varona, Cuban writer, poet, scientist, teacher, journalist, and politician; he founded the Revista Cubana, a literary, scientific, and philosophical journal.
1891 – Nella Larsen, U.S. nurse, librarian, author, and short-story writer who was not only the premier novelist of the Harlem Renaissance, but also an important figure in American Modernism.
1893 – Emilio Oribe, Uruguayan writer, poet, philosopher, university teacher, and doctor; as a poet, he developed an avant-garde style influenced by Ultraism.
1895 – Ragnar Jändel, Swedish poet, author, and autobiographer whose writing gave voice to the working class.
1902 – Marguerite Henry, multiple Newbery Medal-winning U.S. children’s author who wrote novels about horses and other animals, based on true stories; her best known book was Misty of Chincoteague.
1904 – Brinley Richards, Welsh poet and author who wrote in Welsh and was Archdruid of the National Eisteddfod of Wales; his bardic name was Brinli.
1906 – Samuel Beckett, Nobel Prize-winning Irish playwright, novelist, short story writer, theatre director, poet, and literary translator.
1909 – Eudora Welty, Pulitzer Prize-winning U.S. author of novels and short stories, mostly set in the American south.
1914 – Orhan Veli Kanik (also known as Orhan Veli), innovative Turkish poet, essayist, writer, and translator who was one of the founders of the Garip Movement (or First New Movement, which sought to break with traditional Turkish poetic forms); he is credited with introducing colloquialisms that brought poetic language closer to everyday language.
1915 – Ana Montenegro, Brazilian author, poet, journalist, activist, editor, and lawyer who wrote extensively on women’s issues and against racism.
1922 – John Braine, English novelist who was associated with the Angry Young Men literary movement of the 1950s.
1924 – Junnosuke Yoshiyuki, Japanese novelist and short-story writer.
1936 – Choi In-hun, South Korean novelist and professor.
1939 – Seamus Heaney, Nobel Prize-winning Irish poet, writer, and translator known “for works of lyrical beauty and ethical depth, which exalt everyday miracles and the living past”; he is recognized as one of the major poets of the 20th century
1940 – J.M.G. Le Clézio, Nobel Prize-winning French-Mauritian novelist, short-story writer, essayist, professor, and translator.
1944 – Euphrase Kezilahabi, Tanzanian poet, author, and professor who is now based in Botswana; he writes in Swahili.
1947 – Rae Armantrout, Pulitzer Prize-winning U.S. poet and professor; she is associated with the avant-garde Language Poets; one critic said of her work, “William Carlos Williams and Emily Dickinson together taught Armantrout how to dismantle and reassemble the forms of stanzaic lyric— how to turn it inside out and backwards, how to embody large questions and apprehensions in the conjunctions of individual words, how to generate productive clashes from arrangements of small groups of phrases. From these techniques, Armantrout has become one of the most recognizable, and one of the best, poets of her generation.”
1948 – Drago Jančar, Slovenian novelist, playwright, and essayist.
1949 – Christopher Hitchens, British-born author, journalist, columnist, essayist, orator, and social critic who wrote about culture, politics, literature, and religion.
1953 – Ahlam Mosteghanemi, Tunisian-born Algerian writer, poet, novelist, and radio host who was the first woman to publish a compilation of poetry in Arabic.
1959 – Zeruya Shalev, bestselling Israeli writer, children’s author, literary editor, and screenwriter.
1960 – Michel Faber, award-winning Dutch-born Scottish writer and nurse who is known for his English-language novels, poetry, young-adult fiction, nonfiction, short stories, essays, journalism, and literary criticism; his bestselling novel The Crimson Petal and the White, set in 1870s London and principally concerning a 19-year-old prostitute called Sugar, has been described by some critics as postmodern, though others echoed the assertion that it was “the novel that Dickens might have written had he been allowed to speak freely,” with themes informed by feminism, post-Freudian awareness of sexual pathology, and post-Marxian class analysis, as well as by unrestricted access to Victorian pornographic texts that had been suppressed until the late 20th century.
1964 – Lee Jeong-hyang, South Korean film director and screenwriter.
1973 – Ann Catrin Apstein-Müller, German poet, editor, author, and translator.