Famous 20th Century Non-Fiction Writers

This ranking is based on an algorithm that combines various factors, including the votes of our users and search trends on the internet.

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 1 Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway.
4
Famous As: Journalist
Birthdate: July 21, 1899
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Oak Park, Illinois, United States
Died: July 2, 1961

Ernest Hemingway was an American novelist and short-story writer who had a strong impact on 20th-century fiction. He published seven novels and six short-story collections and won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954. A Farewell to Arms, For Whom the Bell Tolls and The Old Man and the Sea are some of his classic works. He ended his own life in July 1961.

 2 Virginia Woolf

Virginia Woolf.
4
Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: January 25, 1882
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: South Kensington, London, England
Died: March 28, 1941

Virginia Woolf was an English writer who pioneered a narrative mode called stream of consciousness to describe the thoughts and feelings of the narrator. Regarded as one of the most prominent modernist 20th-century writers, Woolf's works have gained much attention for inspiring feminism. Her life and work have inspired several films, novels, and plays.

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 3 Sylvia Plath

Sylvia Plath.
4
Famous As: Poet, Novelist, and Writer
Birthdate: October 27, 1932
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Boston, Massachusetts, United States
Died: February 11, 1963

Sylvia Plath was an American short-story writer, novelist, and poet. Plath is credited with popularizing confessional poetry and won a posthumous Pulitzer Prize in Poetry. Sylvia Plath achieved popularity and critical acclaim despite suffering from clinical depression for the most part of her adult life. Her story inspired the 2003 film Sylvia in which she was portrayed by Gwyneth Paltrow.

 4 C. S. Lewis

C. S. Lewis.
4
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: November 29, 1898
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Belfast, Ireland
Died: November 22, 1963

C. S. Lewis was a British writer whose books have sold millions of copies worldwide after having been translated into over 30 languages. His works, such as The Chronicles of Narnia, have inspired the works of other famous authors. Lewis' work continues to attract readership and he was ranked 11th on The Times' 50 greatest British writers since 1945 list.

 5 James Baldwin

James Baldwin.
4
Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: August 2, 1924
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Harlem, New York, United States
Died: December 1, 1987

Amongst the greatest writers of the 20th century and a leading literary voice in the civil rights movement, James Baldwin extensively explored issues like race, sexuality and humanity in his work. His best known work include his debut novel Go Tell It on the Mountain and his books of essays Notes of a Native Son and Nobody Knows My Name.

 6 Truman Capote

Truman Capote.
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Famous As: Author
Birthdate: September 30, 1924
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: New Orleans, Louisiana, United States
Died: August 25, 1984
Truman Capote is best known for his novella Breakfast at Tiffany's, which was made into a movie that starred Audrey Hepburn, and the non-fiction novel In Cold Blood. His short story Shut a Final Door won the O. Henry Award. He was a lifelong friend of author Harper Lee.

 7 Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
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Famous As: Nobel Prize Winner in Literature
Birthdate: March 6, 1927
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Aracataca, Colombia
Died: April 17, 2014

Nobel Prize-winning Colombian author Gabriel Garcia Marquez, also known as “Gabo,” is remembered as one of the most prominent figures of the magic realism literary style. His novels One Hundred Years of Solitude and Love in the Time of Cholera have achieved cult status. He previously worked as a journalist.

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 8 Samuel Beckett

Samuel Beckett.
4
Famous As: Novelist, Playwright, Theater Director
Birthdate: April 13, 1906
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Foxrock, Ireland
Died: December 22, 1989

Samuel Beckett was a legendary Nobel Prize-winning Irish postmodernist and minimalist playwright and author, regarded as a prominent figure of the "Theatre of the Absurd.” He is best known for the play Waiting for Godot and for his tragi-comic themes and black comedy. He was also the Saoi of Aosdána.

 9 Ted Hughes

Ted Hughes.
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Famous As: Poet and Children's Writer
Birthdate: August 17, 1930
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Mytholmroyd
Died: October 28, 1998
Poet and children’s author Ted Hughes is best remembered for his iconic poems The Hawk in the Rain, Birthday Letters, and Crow. He was married to poet Sylvia Plath, who eventually committed suicide at 30. Most people blamed him for mistreating Plath and indirectly causing her death.   

 10 Dale Carnegie

Dale Carnegie.
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Famous As: Self-Help Writer, Motivational Guru, Public Speaker
Birthdate: November 24, 1888
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Maryville, Missouri, United States
Died: November 1, 1955
Writer and academic Dale Carnegie is best remembered for his work on courses in areas such as corporate training, self-improvement, and salesmanship. He started his career as a salesperson. He wrote many books, including the international bestseller How to Win Friends and Influence People, and was a successful lecturer, too.

 11 Hannah Arendt

Hannah Arendt.
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Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: October 14, 1906
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Hanover, Germany
Died: December 4, 1975

Hannah Arendt was a political theorist. Widely regarded as one of the 20th century's most prominent political thinkers, Hannah Arendt's articles and books have had a significant influence on philosophy and political theory. Her life and work inspired the 2012 biographical drama film, Hannah Arendt. Her work has also inspired several biographies written by popular authors.

 12 Susan Sontag

Susan Sontag.
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: January 16, 1933
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: New York, New York, United States
Died: December 28, 2004
Susan Sontag is best known for her essay anthologies such as Against Interpretation and her novels such as In America. She wrote about diverse issues such as human rights, photography, AIDS, and leftist beliefs, and also visited war-torn areas. The National Book Award-winning author was also openly bisexual. 

 13 Rachel Carson

Rachel Carson.
3
Famous As: Marine biologist
Birthdate: May 27, 1907
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Springdale
Died: April 14, 1964

Rachel Carson was a conservationist, marine biologist, and author. She is credited with authoring an influential book titled Silent Spring, which played a significant role in advancing the global environmental movement. Carson is also remembered for her book, The Sea Around Us, which earned her a U.S. National Book Award. She was posthumously honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

 14 Geri Halliwell

Geri Halliwell.
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Famous As: Singer
Birthdate: August 6, 1972
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Watford

Geri Halliwell is a British singer-songwriter who achieved international fame as part of the popular girl group, The Spice Girls, which has sold more than 85 million records worldwide. Also a well-known philanthropist, Geri Halliwell has worked closely with the United Nations Population Fund, becoming its goodwill ambassador in 1998. She is widely regarded as a girl power icon.

 15 Caroline Kennedy

Caroline Kennedy.
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Famous As: Author
Birthdate: November 27, 1957
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Cornell Medical Center Hospital, New York City, New York, U.S.

Caroline Kennedy is an American author, diplomat, and attorney. The only surviving child of John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, Caroline served as the US Ambassador to Japan between 2013 and 2017. A prolific author who writes about civil liberties, Caroline Kennedy has also served as a spokesperson for the Kennedy family's legacy.

 16 Betty Friedan

Betty Friedan.
3
Famous As: Feminist, Writer
Birthdate: February 4, 1921
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: eoria, Illinois, United States
Died: February 4, 2004

 17 Mick Mars

Mick Mars.
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Famous As: Musician
Birthdate: May 4, 1951
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Terre Haute, Indiana, United States
Mick Mars gained fame as the guitarist for the heavy metal band Mötley Crüe and came to be known for his aggressive style of playing the instrument. He has also written songs for bands such as Crashdïet. He has suffered from ankylosing spondylitis since his teenage years. 

 18 Tom Clancy

Tom Clancy.
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Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: April 12, 1947
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Baltimore County, Maryland, United States of America
Died: October 1, 2013
Tom Clancy is best remembered for his espionage- and war-themed novels, many of which, such as The Hunt for Red October, The Sum of All Fears, and Clear and Present Danger, have been made into hit films. He was also a co-owner of the MLB team Baltimore Orioles

 19 Alan Cumming

Alan Cumming.
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Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: January 27, 1965
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Aberfeldy

Alan Cumming is a Scottish-American actor, filmmaker, comedian, and singer. A Tony Award winner, Cumming has contributed immensely to the development of the Scottish Youth Theatre, of which he is a patron. An openly bisexual actor, Cumming's work as an LGBT rights activist has earned him several awards, including the Vito Russo Award and HRC's Humanitarian Award.

 20 H. G. Wells

H. G. Wells.
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: September 21, 1866
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Bromley, Kent, England
Died: August 13, 1946

H. G. Wells was an English writer. Although he was prolific in many genres, he is best remembered for his work on sci-fi novels, for which he is often referred to as the father of science fiction. His 1901 novel The First Men in the Moon became so influential that a lunar impact crater is named after him.

 21 Edward Said

Edward Said.
3
Famous As: Professor
Birthdate: November 1, 1935
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Mandatory Palestine
Died: September 25, 2003

 22 Eartha Kitt

Eartha Kitt.
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Famous As: Singer
Birthdate: January 17, 1927
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: North, South Carolina, United States
Died: December 25, 2008

Eartha Kitt was an American actress, comedian, dancer, and singer-songwriter. Renowned for her distinctive singing style, Kitt recorded several chartbusting songs during the 1950s. Also a well-known activist, Eartha Kitt established a non-profit organization called the Kittsville Youth Foundation, which helped underprivileged youths in Los Angeles. She was also an ardent advocate for same-sex marriage and LGBT rights.

 23 Mackenzie Phillips

Mackenzie Phillips.
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Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: November 10, 1959
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Alexandria, Virginia
Mackenzie Phillips made her acting debut at 12, with American Graffiti. Fans loved her in the series One Day at a Time and So Weird. She has struggled with drug issues and has appeared on Celebrity Rehab. She also confessed to being raped by her father, in her memoir.

 24 Sean Hannity

Sean Hannity.
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Famous As: Talk Show Host
Birthdate: December 30, 1961
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: New York City

Sean Hannity is a conservative political commentator and talk show host. As one of the most-watched and most-listened-to hosts, he has played a key role in shaping American politics in the last decade or so. Due to his closeness to President Donald Trump, he is characterized as the shadow Chief of Staff.

 25 Jane Jacobs

Jane Jacobs.
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Famous As: Journalist, Author, Activist
Birthdate: May 4, 1916
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Scranton, Pennsylvania, United States
Died: April 25, 2006

American-Canadian journalist Jane Jacobs is best known for her book The Death and Life of Great American Cities. A specialist in urban culture and its issues, she was one of the few women who excelled in a male-dominated field. The Vincent Scully Prize winner was initially scorned at as a housewife.

 26 David Icke

David Icke.
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: April 29, 1952
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Leicester

A popular English conspiracy theorist, David Icke has written books and delivered lectures on various theories, such as infinite dimensions, reptoid humanoids, and the Illuminati. While he has faced criticisms and accusations, he also has a large following and has influenced people who support counter-cultural movement and ancient astronaut theories.

 27 Sam Harris

Sam Harris.
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Famous As: Philosopher, Author
Birthdate: April 9, 1967
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: United States of America

One of the "Four Horsemen of Atheism," neuroscientist and author Sam Harris is known for his works on topics such as religion, artificial intelligence, and terrorism. His books include the New York Times bestseller The End of Faith. He hosted the podcast Making Sense and released a meditation app, too.

 28 Michelle McNamara

Michelle McNamara.
4
Famous As: Freelance Writer, Blogger
Birthdate: April 14, 1970
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: United States
Died: April 21, 2016

True-crime writer, Michelle McNamara, is remembered for coining the name "Golden State Killer" for the serial killer later identified as Joseph James DeAngelo. Sadly, the author died before his identification and arrest. Fascinated by true crime from a young age, she launched her website TrueCrimeDiary in 2006 and dedicated her life to researching and writing about true crime.

 29 Naomi Klein

Naomi Klein.
3
Famous As: Author
Birthdate: May 8, 1970
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Canadian author, social activist, and filmmaker Naomi Klein is known for her criticism of corporate globalization and capitalism. She became internationally known following the release of her alter-globalization book No Logo. She often appears on global and national lists of top influential thinkers and is the recipient of the 2016 Sydney Peace Prize. She is a prominent environmentalist as well.

 30 Sela Ward

Sela Ward.
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Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: July 11, 1956
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Meridian, Mississippi

Sela Ann Ward is best known for her Emmy-winning role of Teddy Reed in Sisters. She won another Emmy and a Golden Globe for playing Lily Manning in Once and Again. Fans also loved her in the series House and CSI: NY, and the movie The Day After Tomorrow.

 31 Morris Chestnut

Morris Chestnut.
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Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: January 1, 1969
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Cerritos, California

Actor Morris Chestnut is best known for his role in the film Boyz n the Hood. Beginning his career as a young man, he appeared in a few TV shows before venturing into films. He steadily evolved as an actor and went on to co-star alongside major actors in big-budget films. He has co-authored a book on health and fitness.

 32 Ruskin Bond

Ruskin Bond.
3
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: May 19, 1934
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Kasauli
Sahitya Akademi Award-winning children’s author Ruskin Bond is best known for creating the protagonist Rusty, modeled on his childhood in Dehradun and found in his books such as The Room on the Roof. Many of his books, such as The Blue Umbrella have been made into films. 

 33 Gary Burghoff

Gary Burghoff.
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Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: May 24, 1943
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Bristol, Connecticut

Gary Burghoff is an American actor who is credited with originating the popular role of Charlie Brown in the 1967 Broadway musical You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown. He is also known for originating the role of Walter Eugene O'Reilly in the 1970 black comedy war movie MASH and the popular TV series of the same name.

 34 Jill Ireland

Jill Ireland.
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Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: April 24, 1936
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: London
Died: May 18, 1990

Jill Ireland was an English singer and actress. She is best known for working with her husband Charles Bronson in 15 films. After being diagnosed with breast cancer, Ireland started writing books chronicling her fight with cancer. She also started working with the American Cancer Society. Her fight with cancer inspired the movie Reason for Living: The Jill Ireland Story.

 35 Ann Coulter

Ann Coulter.
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Birthdate: December 8, 1961
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: New York City, United States
Ann Coulter is a political commentator and has written countless bestselling books, including High Crimes and Misdemeanors, which enumerated the reasons why Bill Clinton should have been impeached. She assisted Paula Jones’s attorneys for free. Her columns are featured on various conservative websites. She opposes same-sex marriage and hate-crime laws.

 36 Richard Wright

Richard Wright.
3
Famous As: Author
Birthdate: September 4, 1908
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Roxie, Mississippi, United States
Died: November 28, 1960

 37 Karl Pilkington

Karl Pilkington.
4
Famous As: Television Presenter, Radio Producer
Birthdate: September 23, 1972
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Manchester

Karl Pilkington is an English comedian, television presenter, radio producer, and actor. He achieved popularity as the producer of Stephen Merchant and Ricky Gervais' radio program on Xfm. Pilkington is credited with co-founding a TV production company called RiSK Productions. Also known for his charity work, Pilkington designed and signed a card to benefit the Thomas Coram Foundation for Children.

 38 Cilla Black

Cilla Black.
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Famous As: Singer
Birthdate: May 27, 1943
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Vauxhall, Liverpool, Lancashire, England
Died: August 1, 2015
Priscilla Maria Veronica White, better known as Cilla Black, is best remembered for her chart-topping hits You're My World and Anyone Who Had a Heart. She had her own show, Cilia, and also acted as a comedy actor. She later presented shows such as Blind Date and Surprise Surprise.

 39 John J. Pershing

John J. Pershing.
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Famous As: US Army Officer During WW I
Birthdate: September 13, 1860
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Laclede, Missouri, United States
Died: July 15, 1948

John J. Pershing was a senior United States Army officer who served as the commander of the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) in World War I. In his later years, he mentored generals who led the United States Army during World War II.  He was promoted to General of the Armies rank, the highest possible rank in the United States Army. 

 40 Phillip Schofield

Phillip Schofield.
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Famous As: Television Presenter
Birthdate: April 1, 1962
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Oldham, Lancashire, England

Phillip Schofield is an English TV presenter. Over the years, Schofield has been playing an important role in the success of ITV's This Morning and Dancing on Ice. He is also a humanitarian as he has been serving as a patron of Shooting Star Children's Hospices, which aids families of children with terminal illnesses.

 41 Terence McKenna

Terence McKenna.
4
Famous As: Philosopher, Psychonaut, Ethnobotanist, Author
Birthdate: November 16, 1946
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Paonia, Colorado, United States
Died: April 3, 2000
Philosopher, ethnobotanist, and public speaker Terence McKenna was the proponent of concepts such as the Novelty Theory and Machine Elf. His work revolved around subjects such as psychedelic drugs, shamanism, alchemy, and metaphysics. He wrote several books and supported the usage of psychedelic mushrooms to experience different states of mind.

 42 Ursula K. Le Guin

Ursula K. Le Guin.
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Famous As: Author
Birthdate: October 21, 1929
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Berkeley, California, United States
Died: January 22, 2018

Ursula K. Le Guin was an American author. In a career spanning almost six decades, Ursula wrote about political and social themes like race and sexuality. Throughout her career, Ursula had a major influence on speculative fiction. Her book A Wizard of Earthsea is credited with inspiring ideas like 'wizard school', which was later popularized in the Harry Potter series.

 43 Mike Farrell

Mike Farrell.
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Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: February 6, 1939
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Saint Paul, Minnesota

Mike Farrell is an American actor known for playing, Captain B.J. Hunnicutt, in the popular war comedy-drama TV series, M*A*S*H. Farrell's journey from being born into a working-class family to becoming a famous Hollywood actor is quite inspiring. Also a political and social activist, Farrell has worked on several activist campaigns. In 2001, he was honored with PETA's Humanitarian Award.

 44 Delta Burke

Delta Burke.
4
Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: July 30, 1956
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Orlando, Florida

Delta Burke is an American actress, author, and producer. She is best known for playing Suzanne Sugarbaker in the popular TV series Designing Women. Despite struggling with issues, such as eating disorders, depression, and overweight, Delta Burke has managed to establish a successful acting career and serves as an inspiration to people suffering from similar problems.

 45 Christina Crawford

Christina Crawford.
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Famous As: Author, Actress
Birthdate: June 11, 1939
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Los Angeles, California, USA
Actor and author Christina Crawford is best known for her memoir Mommie Dearest, which described her relationship with her adoptive mother, movie star Joan Crawford, highlighting the abuse she had been subjected to. It was later adapted into a film. Christina has also appeared in stage productions, films, and series.

 46 Michio Kaku

Michio Kaku
4
Famous As: Theoretical physicist, Science writer, Popularizer of science, Futurist, University teacher, Non-fiction writer, Radio personality
Birthdate: January 24, 1947
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: San Jose

Apart from teaching at the City College of New York, theoretical physicist Michio Kaku also often pens his thoughts in blogs and has written several bestselling books, such as The God Equation. His research is focused on the string theory. He also believes in the existence of aliens.

 47 Svetlana Alexievich

Svetlana Alexievich.
3
Famous As: Write and Nobel Prize Winner in Literature
Birthdate: May 31, 1948
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Ivano-Frankivsk

Nobel Prize-winning Belarusian journalist and oral historian Svetlana Alexievich is known for her signature documentary-style novels, which mingle fiction and reporting. Her five-part Voices of Utopia mirrored the lives of people in the Soviet Union. With her writing, she often criticizes the governments of Belarus and the Soviet Union.

 48 Peter Bogdanovich

Peter Bogdanovich
4
Famous As: Director
Birthdate: July 30, 1939
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Kingston, New York, USA

 49 Thomas Kuhn

Thomas Kuhn.
3
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: July 18, 1922
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Cincinnati, Ohio, United States
Died: June 17, 1996

American philosopher of science Thomas Kuhn is noted for his book on history of science, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, publication of which marked a significant event in the history, philosophy, and sociology of science. He presented his notion of paradigm shift and identified and elaborated on normal science in this book which remained influential in academic and popular circles.

 50 Stephen Hawking

Stephen Hawking.
0
Famous As: Theoretical Physicist, Cosmologist
Birthdate: January 8, 1942
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Oxford
Died: March 14, 2018

Stephen Hawking was an English theoretical physicist and cosmologist, who despite being afflicted motor neurone disease that severely limited his physical abilities, was able to build a phenomenally successful career. He was the first to set out a theory of cosmology explained by a union of the general theory of relativity and quantum mechanics. Hawking was ranked 25 in the BBC's poll of the 100 Greatest Britons, in 2002.