1447 – Baptista Spagnuoli Mantuanus (also known as Mantovano, and as Battista the Mantuan, and as Johannes Baptista Spagnolo), Italian Carmelite poet, writer, educator, theologian, reformer, humanist, and clergyman. His most influential work was his Adulescentia, a collection of ten Latin eclogues, poems on bucolic subjects, written in a classical style.
1586 – John Ford, English playwright, poet, prose writer, essayist, and actor. He is best known for the tragedy ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore, a family drama with a theme of incest. (April 17 was the date of his baptism; his exact birthdate is unknown.)
1598 – Giovanni Battista Riccioli, Italian astronomer, writer, theologian, university teacher, cartographer, selenographer, and Catholic priest; he is known, among other things, for his experiments with pendulums and with falling bodies, for his discussion of 126 arguments concerning the motion of the Earth, for introducing the current scheme of lunar nomenclature, and for discovering the first double star.
1621 – Henry Vaughan, Welsh author, physician, artist, economist, and metaphysical poet.
1718 – Adam František Kollár, Slovak writer, librarian, jurist, historian, ethnologist, and policy advisor.
1799 – Elizabeth “Eliza” Acton, influential English food writer and poet who produced one of Britain’s first cookery books aimed at the domestic reader, Modern Cookery for Private Families. The book introduced the now-universal practice of listing ingredients and giving suggested cooking times for each recipe.
1800 – Catherine Sinclair, Scottish novelist and children’s author who was influential in her departure of the moralizing approach typical of children’s literature in her time; she is also the person who discovered that the author of the anonymous Waverley Novels was Sir Walter Scott.
1863 – Constantine Peter Cavafy (also known as Konstantinos Patrou Kabaphes), Egyptian-born Greek poet, journalist, and civil servant whose consciously individual style earned him a place among the most important figures not only in Greek poetry, but in all of Western poetry.
1870 – Ray Stannard Baker, Pulitzer Prize-winning U.S. journalist, author, and biographer who wrote under the pen name David Grayson.
1885 – Karen Blixen, award-winning Danish novelist, memoirist, essayist, and short-story writer who was best known by her pen name Isak Dinesen, though she also wrote under the names Tania Blixen, Osceola, and Pierre Andrézelse (her real name was Baroness Karen Christenze von Blixen-Finecke). Two of her works were made into Oscar-winning films: her memoir, Out of Africa, with the film version starring Meryl Streep and Robert Redford, and her short story “Babette’s Feast.” Blixen wrote both in Danish and in English, choosing a deliberately old-fashioned, romantic style for her works in Danish and a more direct, modern style for her writing in English, trying to capture the tone she believed each audience would best respond to.
1886 – Cevat Sakir Kabaagaçli (born Musa Cevat Sakir), Turkish novelist, short-story writer, essayist, travel writer, and ethnographer who used the pen name The Fisherman of Halicarnassus.
1891 – George Adamski, bestselling Polish-born U.S. author and con artist known for his books on ufology, the study of Unidentified Flying Objects, presumably from outer space; he claimed to have photographed spaceships from other planets, to have met with friendly Nordic alien Space Brothers, to have taken flights with them to the Moon and Venus, and to have knowledge of extraterrestrials living peacefully among humans on Earth.
1897 – Thornton Wilder, three-time Pulitzer Prize-winning U.S. playwright, novelist, screenwriter, and essayist, best known for his novel The Bridge of San Luis Rey and his play Our Town. He also won a National Book Award, a Presidential Medal of Freedom, and many other accolades; his work is characterized by his innovative style and exploration of universal truths in human nature.
1914 – Adi Pherozeshah Marzban, Indian Gujarati playwright, actor, director, and broadcaster known for his efforts in modernizing Parsi theatre.
1915 – Regina Tadevosi Ghazaryan, Armenian painter, author, and military pilot who is credited with saving poet Yeghishe Charents’s manuscripts when he was imprisoned under Joseph Stalin’s regime.
1921 – Chike Obi, Nigerian politician, mathematician, professor, poet, and writer who was the first Nigerian to hold a doctorate in mathematics; he is the author of books and journal articles on mathematics and Nigerian politics.
1928 – Cynthia Ozick, award-winning Jewish-U.S. novelist, poet, playwright, essayist, literary critic, translator, and short-story writer; she often writes about Jewish-American life and the Holocaust, but her work also explores politics, history, and the reconstruction of identity after immigration.
1935 – Masanori Hata, award-winning Japanese zoologist, essayist, novelist, screenwriter, and filmmaker who is best known in the West as the director and screenwriter of the film The Adventures of Milo and Otis.
1938 – Dame Claudia Josepha Orange (née Bell), award-winning New Zealand historian and museum administrator, best known for her book The Treaty of Waitangi.
1946 – Abiola Odejide, Nigerian writer, professor, and university administrator who was the first woman Deputy Vice Chancellor at the University of Ibadan; she has written on children’s literature, gender discrimination in academia and elsewhere,
1949 – Beverly Lewis, prolific, bestselling U.S. novelist and children’s author who specializes in Christian fiction, especially novels set in Amish and Mennonite communities.
1955 – Catherine Ryan Hyde, U.S. novelist and short story writer whose novel Pay It Forward was made into a feature film.
1957 – Nick Hornby, bestselling British novelist, many of whose books, including High Fidelity and About a Boy, have been adapted into films; his work frequently touches upon themes of music, sports, and the aimless and obsessive natures of his protagonists.
1962 – Joanna Murray-Smith, Australian playwright, screenwriter, writer, author, novelist, librettist, and columnist.
1967 – Birgitta Jónsdóttir, Icelandic poet, writer, editor, artist, and Member of Parliament.
1977 – Gayatribala Panda, award-winning Indian poet, novelist, short-story writer, literary magazine editor, and journalist; she had her first poem published at the age of 12.
1980 – Timothy James M. Dimacali, Filipino science-fiction writer, science-education advocate, and science journalist.