Famous 19th Century Non-Fiction Writers

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Vote for Your Favourite 19th Century Non-Fiction Writers

 1 Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass
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Famous As: Abolitionist, Social Reformer
Birthdate: 1818 AD
Birthplace: Talbot County, Maryland, United States
Died: February 20, 1895

Social reformer and abolitionist, Frederick Douglass was a national leader of the abolitionist movement in Massachusetts and New York. Born into slavery, he had a difficult early life. Eventually, he managed to escape and dedicated the rest of his life to promoting the cause of abolition. He was a great orator and writer.

 2 W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois
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Famous As: Civil Rights Activists
Birthdate: February 23, 1868
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Great Barrington, Massachusetts, United States
Died: August 27, 1963

W. E. B. Du Bois was an American civil rights activist, sociologist, and Pan-Africanist. Du Bois played an instrumental role in fighting for full civil rights for people of color around the world. A co-founder of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Du Bois also played an important role as the leader of the Niagara Movement.

 3 Henry David Thoreau

Henry David Thoreau
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Famous As: Poet, Naturalist, Essayist
Birthdate: July 12, 1817
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Concord, Massachusetts, United States
Died: May 6, 1862

Henry David Thoreau was an American philosopher, essayist, poet, and naturalist. He is credited with popularizing transcendentalism and simple living. His philosophy of civil disobedience, which was detailed in his essay of the same name, later influenced world-renowned personalities like Leo Tolstoy, Martin Luther King Jr., and Mahatma Gandhi.

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 4 Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ralph Waldo Emerson
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Famous As: Essayist
Birthdate: May 25, 1803
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Boston, Massachusetts, United States
Died: April 27, 1882

Ralph Waldo Emerson was an American philosopher who led the transcendentalist movement that developed in the eastern United States in the 1820s and 1830s. He is credited with popularizing individualism through his numerous lectures and essays. Emerson influenced many thinkers and writers that followed him; he mentored Henry David Thoreau, who went on to become a leading transcendentalist.

 5 Robert Louis Stevenson

Robert Louis Stevenson
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Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: November 13, 1850
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Edinburgh, Scotland
Died: December 3, 1894

Robert Louis Stevenson was a Scottish travel writer, poet, and novelist. A popular writer in his lifetime, Stevenson went about traveling widely and writing prolifically even as he suffered from bronchial trouble; his will power and love for writing won the hearts of many other writers. In 2018, he was ranked as the world's 26th-most-translated author.

 6 John Stuart Mill

John Stuart Mill
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Famous As: Philosopher, Economist, Politician
Birthdate: May 20, 1806
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Pentonville, London, England
Died: May 8, 1873
Nineteenth-century philosopher John Stuart Mill is best remembered for his work On Liberty, which spoke of personal freedom and "the harm principle.” His The Subjection of Women was one of the first works written by a male author that promoted women's rights. He supported Jeremy Bentham's ethical utilitarianism.

 7 Mary Seacole

Mary Seacole
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Famous As: Heroine of the Crimean War
Birthdate: November 23, 1805
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Kingston, Jamaica
Died: May 14, 1881

Mary Seacole was a British-Jamaican nurse, businesswoman, and healer. She played a major role during the Crimean War, providing aid for wounded servicemen and nursing them back to health. In 1991, Seacole was posthumously honored with the Jamaican Order of Merit. In 2004, she was named the greatest black Briton for her contribution during the war.

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 8 Friedrich Nietzsche

Friedrich Nietzsche
4
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: October 15, 1844
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Röcken, Lützen, Germany
Died: August 25, 1900

German philosopher, cultural critic, composer, and poet Friedrich Nietzsche has had a profound influence on modern intellectual history. He held the Chair of Classical Philology at the University of Basel. His work spanned philosophical polemics, poetry, cultural criticism, and fiction. He suffered from numerous health problems from a young age and died at the age of 55.

 9 John Reed

John Reed
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Famous As: Journalist, Poet
Birthdate: October 22, 1887
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Portland, Oregon, United States
Died: October 17, 1920

 10 Elizabeth Gaskell

Elizabeth Gaskell
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Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: September 29, 1810
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Chelsea, England
Died: November 12, 1865

 11 John Ruskin

John Ruskin
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Famous As: Art Critic and Painter
Birthdate: February 8, 1819
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: England
Died: January 20, 1900

The leading English art critic of the Victorian era, John Ruskin was a hugely influential figure in the latter half of the 19th century. Also a philosopher and prominent social thinker, he wrote on varied subjects like geology, architecture, education, botany, myth, ornithology, literature, and political economy. He founded the charitable trust Guild of St George.

 12 William Morris

William Morris
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Famous As: Textile Designer, Poet
Birthdate: March 24, 1834
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Walthamstow, England
Died: October 3, 1896

William Morris was a British poet, novelist, textile designer, translator, and socialist activist. He played a major role in reviving the traditional British textile arts and the various methods of production. As a novelist and poet, Morris helped establish the fantasy genre, which is prevalent today. He is counted among the most important cultural figures of the Victorian era.

 13 Gertrude Bell

Gertrude Bell
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Famous As: Writer, Diplomat
Birthdate: July 14, 1868
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Washington, United Kingdom
Died: July 12, 1926

Born into a wealthy English family, Gertrude Bell was an explorer at heart and went down in history for her journeys across the Middle East and for helping establish the Hāshimite dynasty in Iraq. Though she graduated in history from Oxford, being a woman, she wasn’t awarded a degree.

 14 Napoleon Hill

Napoleon Hill
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Famous As: Writer of personal-success literature
Birthdate: October 26, 1883
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Pound, Virginia
Died: November 8, 1970

 15 Vinayak Damodar Savarkar

Vinayak Damodar Savarkar
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Famous As: Independence Activist, Reformer
Birthdate: May 28, 1883
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Bhagur
Died: February 26, 1966

Vinayak Damodar Savarkar was an Indian politician and independence activist. He formulated the Hindu nationalist philosophy of Hindutva and was a leading figure in the Hindu Mahasabha. He was known for his strong oratory skills and was an eloquent writer. He was initially charged as a co-conspirator in the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi but was later acquitted.

 16 Frances Burney

Frances Burney
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Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: June 13, 1752
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: King’s Lynn, England
Died: January 6, 1840

 17 Marcelo H. del Pilar

Marcelo H. del Pilar
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: August 30, 1850
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Bulakan, Bulacan, Captaincy General of the Philippines
Died: July 4, 1896

Marcelo H. del Pilar was a Filipino lawyer, writer, freemason, and journalist. Along with Graciano López Jaena and José Rizal, Del Pilar became known in Spain as the leaders of the Reform Movement. He is considered the Father of Philippine Journalism for his 66 editorials and 150 essays. He is also regarded as the Father of Philippine Masonry.

 18 Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar

Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar
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Famous As: Social Reformer, Educator
Birthdate: September 26, 1820
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Birsingha, West Bengal, India
Died: July 29, 1891

Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar was an Indian social reformer and educator. He is best remembered for his efforts to modernize and simplify Bengali prose for which he is widely regarded as the father of Bengali prose. As a social reformer, Vidyasagar played a crucial role in enacting the Hindu Widows' Remarriage Act, which legalized the remarriage of Hindu widows in India. 

 19 Lewis Wallace

Lewis Wallace
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Famous As: Lawyer
Birthdate: April 10, 1827
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Brookville, Indiana, United States
Died: February 15, 1905

 20 James Glaisher

James Glaisher
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Famous As: Meteorologists
Birthdate: April 7, 1809
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Rotherhithe, London, England
Died: February 7, 1903

Renowned meteorologist and aeronaut James Glaisher was a pioneer of balloon flights and had penned the iconic book Travels in the Air. He had also contributed to the formation of the Meteorological Society and the Aeronautical Society of Britain. The 2019 movie The Aeronauts depicts his exploits as a balloonist.

 21 Aldo Leopold

Aldo Leopold
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Birthdate: January 11, 1887
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Burlington
Died: April 21, 1948

 22 Vyvyan Holland

Vyvyan Holland
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: November 3, 1886
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: London, England
Died: October 10, 1967

 23 Gordon Allport

Gordon Allport
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Famous As: Psychologist, Academic, University teacher, Non-fiction writer
Birthdate: November 11, 1897
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Montezuma
Died: October 9, 1967

 24 John Wyndham

John Wyndham
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Famous As: Fiction Writer
Birthdate: July 10, 1903
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Dorridge, United Kingdom
Died: March 11, 1969

John Wyndham was an English writer best remembered for writing science fiction stories set in post-apocalyptic landscapes, such as The Day of the Triffids. His books have inspired other works of art like movies and radio. John Wyndham’s 1957 science fiction novel The Midwich Cuckoos was filmed twice under the title Village of the Damned.

 25 Gertrude Jekyll

Gertrude Jekyll
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Famous As: Horticulturist, Painter, Gardener, Non-fiction writer, Botanist, Architect
Birthdate: November 29, 1843
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: London
Died: December 8, 1932

Landscape architect Gertrude Jekyll was born into an affluent family and grew up in a refined environment, learning music and traveling. Initially interested in painting, she gave it up to focus on gardening when she developed eyesight problems. She built around 400 gardens and also collaborated with Sir Edwin Lutyens.

 26 David Unaipon

David Unaipon
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Famous As: Preacher
Birthdate: September 28, 1872
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: South Australia
Died: February 7, 1967

David Unaipon was an Aboriginal Australian preacher, author, and inventor. He is best remembered for his significant contribution to Australian society, which helped break several stereotypes about Aboriginal Australians. Apart from establishing a couple of awards in his honor, the Australian government has also featured Unaipon on the Australian fifty-dollar note.

 27 Hudson Taylor

Hudson Taylor
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Famous As: Missionary
Birthdate: May 21, 1832
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Barnsley, Yorkshire, England
Died: June 3, 1905

Hudson Taylor was one of the most popular Christian missionaries in China. His 51-year stint in China witnessed him baptizing over 50,000 people. Apart from converting people, he also mingled with the Chinese at a personal level, adopting their clothing habits, contrary to what other missionaries practiced.

 28 Alexander Berkman

Alexander Berkman
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Famous As: Editor
Birthdate: November 21, 1870
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Vilnius
Died: June 28, 1936

Alexander Berkman was a Russian-American anarchist and author. He was famous for both his political activism and his writing and was a leading member of the anarchist movement in the early 20th century. He served as the editor of fellow anarchist Emma Goldman's anarchist journal, Mother Earth. He suffered from ill-health in his later years and died by suicide. 

 29 Luther Burbank

Luther Burbank
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Famous As: Horticulturist, Geneticist, Botanist, Gardener, Academic, Non-fiction writer
Birthdate: March 7, 1849
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Santa Rosa
Died: April 11, 1926

Luther Burbank was an American horticulturist and botanist. A pioneer in agricultural science, Luther Burbank developed over 800 varieties of plants and strains in an illustrious career that spanned 55 years. He is also credited with developing a spineless cactus that served as cattle feed. In 1986, Luther Burbank was made an inductee of the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

 30 Paul Langevin

Paul Langevin
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Famous As: Physicist, Professor, Chemist, Philosopher of science, Educationist, Non-fiction writer
Birthdate: January 23, 1872
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Paris
Died: December 19, 1946

Best known for developing the Langevin dynamics and the Langevin equation, physicist Paul Langevin was also a staunch Communist. Having worked on his doctoral thesis under Pierre Curie, he had formed a connection with Curie’s wife, Marie Curie, which developed into a full-blown love affair after Pierre’s death.

 31 Ernest Thompson Seton

Ernest Thompson Seton
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Famous As: Author
Birthdate: August 14, 1860
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: South Shields, United Kingdom
Died: October 23, 1946

Ernest Thompson Seton was a wildlife artist and author. He is credited with founding a youth program called the Woodcraft Indians in 1902. A pioneer of the Boy Scouts of America, Seton also had a huge influence on the founder of the Scout Movement, Lord Baden-Powell. His life and career inspired several works of art like TV series and literature.

 32 Isabella Beeton

Isabella Beeton
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Famous As: Author
Birthdate: March 12, 1836
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: London
Died: February 6, 1865

 33 Tanizaki Jun'ichirō

Tanizaki Jun'ichirō
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: July 24, 1886
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Tokyo, Japan
Died: July 30, 1965

Tanizaki Jun'ichirō was a Japanese author whose works made him a contender for the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1964. Widely regarded as one of the most important personalities in modern Japanese literature, Tanizaki's work ranges from the depictions of erotic obsessions to the dynamics of family life in 20th-century Japan. Many of his works have been adapted into films.

 34 Robert Stroud

Robert Stroud
3
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: January 8, 1890
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Seattle, Washington, USA
Died: November 21, 1963

 35 Gilbert N. Lewis

Gilbert N. Lewis
3
Famous As: Physical chemist
Birthdate: October 23, 1875
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Weymouth, Massachusetts, United States
Died: March 23, 1946

 36 Henry Ossian Flipper

Henry Ossian Flipper
3
Famous As: Military Leader
Birthdate: March 21, 1856
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Thomasville, Georgia, United States
Died: April 26, 1940

Then first Black to have graduated from West Point’s Military Academy, Henry Ossian Flipper was born to slave parents. He also became the first African-American to command US Army troops. He was dismissed unjustly on embezzlement charges and later worked as a civil engineer. His name was cleared posthumously.

 37 Jean-Baptiste Say

Jean-Baptiste Say
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Famous As: Economist
Birthdate: January 5, 1767
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Lyon, France
Died: November 15, 1832

French economist Jean-Baptiste Say supported free trade and competition. Scholars of economics know him for his law of markets, which states that supply creates its own demand. He had experimented with many jobs, from being a journalist to owning a cotton mill, and eventually became an economics professor.

 38 Karl Haushofer

Karl Haushofer
3
Famous As: Geopolitician, Political scientist, Educationist, Officer, University teacher, Non-fiction writer
Birthdate: August 27, 1869
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Munich
Died: March 10, 1946

 39 Leo Tolstoy bibliography

Leo Tolstoy bibliography
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: 1828 AD
Birthplace: Russia
Died: 1910 AD

Legendary Russian author Leo Tolstoy was one of the greatest novelists of the world. Best known for his realistic fiction and cult novels such as War and Peace and Anna Karenina, he had also penned plays such as The Power of Darkness and was nominated for the Nobel Prize multiple times.

 40 William Graham Sumner

William Graham Sumner
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Famous As: Anthropologist, Political scientist, Writer
Birthdate: October 30, 1840
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Paterson, New Jersey, United States
Died: April 12, 1910

William Graham Sumner was an American social scientist who held America's first professorship in sociology; he served as a professor of social sciences at Yale. Sumner, who wrote several essays and books on American history, political theory, sociology, and economic history, was one of the most popular and influential teachers at Yale. He also had an influence on American conservatism.

 41 Anna Julia Cooper

Anna Julia Cooper
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Famous As: Author, Educator
Birthdate: August 10, 1858
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Raleigh, North Carolina, U.S.A.
Died: February 27, 1964

 42 Mary Boykin Miller Chesnut

Mary Boykin Miller Chesnut
3
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: March 31, 1823
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: near Stateburg, South Carolina, U.S.
Died: November 22, 1886

 43 Alexander Herzen

Alexander Herzen
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Famous As: Father of Russian socialism
Birthdate: April 6, 1812
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Moscow, Russia
Died: January 21, 1870

Alexander Herzen was a Russian thinker and writer. Regarded as the father of Russian socialism, Herzen played an influential role in the political set up of the 19th and 20th century. He also influenced personalities like Isaiah Berlin, who regarded Herzen as his hero. Herzen's book My Past and Thoughts is considered one of the best autobiographies in Russian literature.

 44 Ōkawa Shūmei

Ōkawa Shūmei
2
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: December 6, 1886
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Yamagata, Japan
Died: December 24, 1957

 45 Robert Erskine Childers

Robert Erskine Childers
3
Famous As: Former Teachta Dála of Ireland
Birthdate: June 25, 1870
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Mayfair, London, England
Died: November 24, 1922

 46 David Garnett

David Garnett
2
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: March 9, 1892
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Brighton, England
Died: February 17, 1981

 47 Mary Prince

Mary Prince
0
Famous As: Autobiographer of The History of Mary Prince (1831)
Birthdate: October 1, 1788
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Bermuda
Died: 1833 AD

 48 Edward Whymper

Edward Whymper
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Famous As: Mountaineer
Birthdate: April 27, 1840
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: London, United Kingdom
Died: September 16, 1911

 49 Edgar Guest

Edgar Guest
2
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: August 20, 1881
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Birmingham, England
Died: August 5, 1959

 50 Harold Laski

Harold Laski
3
Famous As: Economist
Birthdate: June 30, 1893
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Manchester, England
Died: March 24, 1950

Political scientist and Labour Party member Harold Laski later deviated to Communism. Born to a cotton merchant, he studied at Oxford and then taught at Harvard. Remembered for his works such as A Grammar of Politics and Authority in the Modern State, he was also a Zionism supporter.