1055 – Guibert of Nogent, French Benedictine writer, historian, theologian, autobiographer, and memoirist whose extensive autobiographical works provide modern scholars with insights into medieval life.
1452 – Leonardo da Vinci, Italian inventor, designer, writer, scientist, painter, sculptor, cartographer, and “Renaissance man”; he has been called the father of paleontology, ichnology, and architecture, and is widely considered one of the greatest painters of all time.
1814 – Elizabeth Medora Leigh, English writer and poet; it is widely speculated that she was fathered by her mother’s half-brother, the poet Lord Byron.
1843 – Elizabeth Boynton Harbert, prolific U.S. novelist, poet, writer, essayist, songwriter, lyricist, lecturer, suffragist, reformer, and philanthropist; she was the first women to design a woman’s political plank and secure its adoption by a major U.S. political party.
1843 – Henry James, U.S.-born British novelist, playwright, short-story writer, and literary critic who is included on most lists of the greatest novelists in the English language; he is a key transitional figure between literary realism and literary modernism.
1856 – Jean Moréas, Greek writer, poet, literary critic, art critic, novelist, and essayist who wrote most of his work in French, though he wrote in Greek, as well.
1857 – Jane de la Vaudère (pen name of Jeanne Scrive), French novelist, short-story writer, poet, and playwright who was part of both the Decadent movement and Naturalism.
1864 – Lujo Vojnović, Serbian Montenegrin writer, lawyer, politician, and diplomat who wrote about history and politics; his older brother was dramatist and poet Ivo Vojnovic.
1865 – Ayodhya Singh Upadhyay ‘Hari Oudh’, Indian Hindi writer, poet, and educator.
1867 – Minakata Kumagusu, Japanese author, biologist, mycologist, naturalist, and ethnologist.
1872 – Joseph de Picciotto, Egyptian Sephardi Jewish historian, economist, banker, politician, and senator.
1875 – Klaziena (Ina) Boudier-Bakker, Dutch novelist whose most famous work is De klop op de deur (The Knock on the Door).
1877 – Dakshinaranjan Mitra Majumdar, celebrated Indian Bengali writer of fairy tales and children’s literature.
1878 – Evelyne Bustros, Lebanese novelist, writer, nonfiction author, and activist who published multiple books and articles in her lifetime, on topics including politics, women’s rights, Arab traditions and customs, and the arts.
1886 – Selim Hassan, Egyptian archeologist, anthropologist, Egyptologist, author, and university professor; he is most acclaimed for writing the 16-volume Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt in Arabic and for supervising the excavation of many ancient Egyptian tombs.
1889 – Marthe Richard, French writer, memoirist, politician, record-breaking aircraft pilot, and spy. As a teen, she worked as a prostitute; later in life, she was elected to her municipal council and worked toward the closing of brothels, first locally, and eventually throughout France. The law that closed brothels nationwide is now known as La Loi Marthe Richard (the Marthe Richard Law).
1892 – Corrie ten Boom, Dutch author and watchmaker; along with her sister Betsie ten Boom and other family members, she helped many Jews escape the Nazis during World War II by hiding them in her home until she was arrested and sent to the Ravensbrück concentration camp. Her most famous book, The Hiding Place, is a memoir that recounts the story of her family’s efforts and her time at Ravensbrück.
1907 – Zoya Ivanovna Voskresenskaya, Soviet Russian diplomat, spy, and popular, award-winning author of novels and children’s books; her war-time memoirs Now I Can Tell the Truth came out in 1992, 11 months after her death, and for the first time revealed that the bestselling children’s writer had been a leading figure in Soviet intelligence.
1911 – Muhammad Metwalli al-Sha’rawi (Arabic: محمد متولي الشعراوي), Egyptian author, Islamic scholar, politician, and Muslim jurist who was Egypt’s Minister of Endowments; he was considered “one of the most-prominent symbols of popular Egyptian culture.”
1916 – Helene Hanff, U.S. writer best known for her book 84, Charing Cross Road, which became the basis for a stage play, television play, and film of the same name.
1919 – Emyr Humphreys, prominent award-winning Welsh writer, poet, novelist, teacher, playwright, radio writer, and lecturer; he is well known for “The Land of the Living,” an epic sequence of seven novels that chart the political and cultural history of 20th century Wales, and for The Taliesin Tradition, a cultural history of Wales.
1921 – Vimala Thakar, Indian author, social activist, and spiritual teacher
1925 – Sat-Okh (real name Stanislaw Suplatowicz), Canadian-born Polish children’s author and television presenter who was a soldier in the Polish Resistance during World War II and published autobiographical children’s books; he claimed to be Polish and Shawnee and to have grown up in Canada among First Nations people, and he became an important figure in the Polish “indianist” movement, but there is controversy as to whether his accounts were a hoax, as his books reflect culture and customs not associated with the peoples of the Northwest Territories.
1931 – Sally Miller Gearhart, U.S. science-fiction novelist, writer, professor, feminist, and political activist who was the first open lesbian in a tenure-track faculty position at San Francisco State University, where she helped establish one of the first women and gender-study programs in the country; she also became a nationally known gay rights activist.
1931 – Tomas Tranströmer, Nobel Prize-winning Swedish poet, psychologist, and translator, who won the award “because, through his condensed, translucent images, he gives us fresh access to reality.”
1932 – Suresh Bhat, Indian poet who was known as Ghazal Samrat (Emperor of ghazals) for his exposition of the ghazal form of poetry and its adaptation to the Marathi language.
1932 – Eva Figes, English novelist, literary critic, writer of feminist studies, and author of vivid memoirs of her Berlin childhood and her experiences as a Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany.
1940 – Jeffrey Archer, English author and former politician who resigned amid scandal.
1943 – Pınar Kür, Turkish author, playwright, and literary critic.
1945 – Hamid Ahmadi, Iranian writer and historian who specializes in Iranian history and is the founder and director of the Research Association for Iranian Oral History.
1945 – Samuel Clement Nolutshungu, award-winning South African author, professor, and political scientist who was an internationally acclaimed expert on South African politics and a prolific writer of significant articles; he also published three books, including South Africa in Africa: A Study in Ideology and Foreign Policy, which was the first major study of South African politics by a black South African.
1950 – Josiane Balasko, award-winning French screenwriter, actress, and film director.
1958 – Anne Michaels, award-winning Canadian poet, novelist, and nonfiction writer who was the poet laureate of Toronto, Ontario.
1958 – Benjamin Zephaniah, British and Jamaican writer, poet, and playwright.
1963 – Alex Christine Crawford, award-winning Nigerian-born British journalist, author, and war correspondent who is currently based in South Africa.
1964 – Johanne Hildebrandt, Swedish novelist and journalist who has authored ten books.
1966 – Cressida Cowell, British author and children’s writer, best known for her bestselling book series, “How To Train Your Dragon.”
1968 – Mons Kallentoft, Swedish journalist and author of the Police Inspector Malin Fors crime novels.
1969 – Omar Tyree, award-winning U.S. African-American author of bestselling novels; he has also written under the pseudonym Urban Griot.