May 12 Writer Birthdays

1089 – Mahsati Ganjavi, eminent Persian poet who is remembered for her quatrains and for her association with both Omar Khayyam; her name Mahsati is a compound of two Persian words “Mah/Maah” (Moon) and “Sati” (Lady).

1665 – Albertus Seba, Dutch writer, ornithologist, pharmacist, zoologist, and pharmacologist who accumulated one of the largest cabinets of curiosities in the Netherlands during his time; his early work on taxonomy and natural history influenced Linnaeus.

1812 – Edward Lear, English author and illustrator, best known today for his nonsense poetry and his children’s books.

1820 – Florence Nightingale, English social reformer, statistician, and the founder of modern nursing who came to prominence while serving as a manager and trainer of nurses during the Crimean War and became an icon of Victorian culture. She was also a prodigious and versatile writer, especially on topics dealing with spreading medical knowledge and written in simple English; she was also a pioneer in data visualization with the use of infographics.

1828 – Dante Gabriel Rossetti (born Gabriel Charles Dante Rossetti), pre-Raphaelite English poet, translator, illustrator, and painter; the renowned poet Christina Rossetti was his sister.

1835 – José María Cordovez Moure, Colombian writer and historian

1841 – Ricardo Rossel Sirot, Peruvian author, poet, politician, scholar, and entrepreneur who was the founder of the Club Literario de Lima.

1843 – Margaret Veley, English writer, poet, and novelist.

1868 – Ricardo Jaimes Freyre, Peruvian-born Bolivian poet whose Symbolist-influenced verse, which frequently took advantage of free-verse forms, was important in the development of Latin American modernism.

1869 – Albert Engström, Swedish writer, poet, historian, illustrator, comics artist, songwriter, painter, cartoonist, and journalist.

1875 – Minnie Louise Haskins, British poet and academic in the field of sociology, best known for being quoted by King George VI in his Royal Christmas Message of 1939.

1885 – Saneatsu Mushanokōji, Japanese artist, novelist, screenwriter, photographer, writer, poet, playwright, painter, and philosopher.

1892 – Ramanlal Vasantlal Desai, Indian Gujarati novelist and essayist who is considered a key figure in Gujarati literature.

1907 – Leslie Charteris (born Leslie Charles Bowyer-Yin), Singapore-born Chinese-English author of screenplays and adventure fiction; his character Simon Templar, “The Saint,” has appeared not only in Charteris’s books, but also in books by other authors as well as in television shows, movies, and radio plays.

1916 – Albert L. Murray, U.S. African-American author and essayist who incorporated a blues aesthetic into his novels.

1919 – Wu Wenjun, Chinese writer, historian, mathematician, and editor of the ten-volume Grand Series of Chinese Mathematics, covering the time from antiquity to late part of the Qin dynasty.

1921 – Farley Mowat, award-winning Canadian author, children’s writer, and environmentalist who wrote about the Canadian north; he has been praised for his poetic language, vivid descriptions, and advocacy for environmental causes, but has also been ridiculed for inaccuracies in his books.

1924 – Claribel Alegria, Nicaraguan poet, novelist, and documentary filmmaker.

1925 – John Simon (born Ivan Simmon), acerbic Yugoslavian culture critic who wrote literature, film, and art reviews for New York Magazine; his book Reverse Angle: A Decade of American Films recommended only 15 of the 245 films discussed.

1930 – Mazisi Kunene, South African poet best known for his poem “Emperor Shaka the Great”; he was part of the anti-apartheid movement and became the Poet Laureate of both South African and Africa, as well as being the author of Anthem of the Decades: A Zulu Epic.

1933 – Andrey Andreyevich Voznesensky, Soviet Russian poet and writer whom poet Robert Lowell called, “one of the greatest living poets in any language”; as part of the new wave of Russian intellectuals called the “Children of the ’60s,” he was counted among the most daring writers of the Soviet era, and was once threatened with expulsion by Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev.

1934 – Elechi Amadi, Nigerian novelist and playwright who wrote about African village life, customs, beliefs, and religious practices prior to contact with the Western world.

1937 – George Carlin, U.S. comedic author, social critic, stand-up comedian, actor, and television personality who was called, “the dean of counterculture comedians”; his “seven dirty words” routine has become a classic, but he was caused controversy because of his use of language that was considered by many to be obscene.

1937 – Misha Defonseca (born Monique de Wael), Belgian-born author of a fictitious Holocaust memoir titled Misha: A Mémoire of the Holocaust Years, first published in 1997 and at that time professed to be a true memoir.

1938 – Andrei Amalrik, Russian writer, historian, journalist, dissident, human rights activist, and opinion journalist.

1939 – Rosellen Brown, award-winning U.S. novelist, short-story writer, poet, and essayist; the film Before and After was adapted from her novel of the same name.

1942 – Vittal Rao K., Indian Tamil short-story writer, novelist, and essayist.

1945 – Tormod Haugen, Norwegian children’s writer, author, translator, and linguist.

1946 – L. Neil Smith, U.S. science-fiction author and libertarian political activist; he also wrote in the “Star Wars” universe.

1947 – Penelope Shuttle, British poet, writer, playwright, and novelist.

1949 – Hans Leyendecker, German writer and author who is one of Germany’s best-known investigative journalists.

1949 – Paul Starr, Pulitzer Prize-winning U.S. professor and nonfiction author.

1955 – Blue Balliett, U.S. author and teacher who is best known for her award-winning, groundbreaking children’s novel, Chasing Vermeer; she was born Elizabeth Balliett, but her family started calling her Blue when she was still a baby.

1961 – Jennifer Armstrong, U.S. author of children’s adventure novels, historical fiction, post-apocalyptic fiction, and nonfiction; she has also edited an anthology.

1964 – Lijia Zhang, Chinese writer, journalist, and public speaker who describes herself as a communicator between China and the world.

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