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1. Omar Khayyam


Born in a wealthy province of Seljuk-ruled Persia, Omar Khayyam was educated well as a youth and became fascinated by science, especially astronomy and mathematics. He built an observatory and created the Jalalaean Calender that was far more accurate than the Julian Calender in use by his European ...

2. Hildegard von Bingen

Soundtrack | Breath of God

Vision (2009) is a film about her.

3. Jalaluddin Muhammad Rumi

Writer | Rumi: Poet of the Heart

Jalaluddin Rumi, Scholar in Religious Sciences and famed Sufi Mystic Poet, was born on September 29th 1207 A.D. in Balkh (modern day Afghanistan). Escaping Mongol invasions he travelled extensively to Muslim lands, Bagdad, Mecca, Damascus, Malatia (Turkey). Married Gevher Khatun of Samarquand and ...

4. Dante Alighieri

Writer | The Trophy Case: Judgement

Dante Alighieri was born in 1265 into the lower nobility of Florence, to Alighiero di Bellincione d'Alighiero, a moneylender. A precocious student, Dante's education focused on rhetoric and grammar. He also became enamored with a young girl, Beatrice Portinari, whose death in 1290 threw a grieving ...

5. Giovanni Boccaccio

Writer | The Little Hours

Had a step-brother, Francesco (born c. 1320).

6. Geoffrey Chaucer

Writer | The Ribald Tales of Canterbury

Brother-in-law of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, made famous in "Richard II" by William Shakespeare. Geoffrey and John's wives, Philippa and Katherine de Roet, were sisters.

7. Johannes Gutenberg

Devised a system of printing with movable metal-type, which replaced hand-copying as the principle method of book production. The Gutenberg Bible, produced between 1452 and 1456 was the first ever machine-printed book.

8. Thomas Malory

Writer | Excalibur

Born around 1414-1420 into an English gentry family, Sir Thomas Malory spent his first couple of decades in quiet obscurity, aside from campaigning at the Siege of Calais in 1436. By 1441 he had been knighted, and had developed a growing interest in politics. In 1445 he became MP for his county and...

9. Dieric Bouts

Art Department | Met Dieric Bouts

Flemish painter. His "Triptych of the Virgin" (1455), "Martyrdom of St. Erasmus" (1458), "Altarpiece of the Holy Sacrament" (1464-1467), and "The Justice of Emperor Otto III" diptych (1460), "Portrait of a Man" (1462), and "Resurrection" (1455) are considered masterpieces. "Resurrection" part of ...

10. Christopher Columbus

Columbus Day was named after him.

11. Leonardo Da Vinci

Art Department | La vita di Leonardo da Vinci

The archetypal "Renaissance Man," Leonardo da Vinci was one of the greatest scientific minds as well as one of the greatest visual artists the human race has ever produced. The illegitimate son of a wealthy Florentine notary, Piero da Vinci, and a peasant woman named Caterina, Leonardo was born in ...

13. Niccolò Machiavelli

Writer | Monna Vanna

Born into a time of extreme political upheaveal, Niccolò Machiavelli was a member of the old Florentine nobility. He received a proper humanistic Renaissance education, and as a young man began the climb up the perilous political ladder of Italy. In 1502 he was sent to Romagna as an envoy to Cesare...

14. Albrecht Dürer

Art Department | Unser Sandmännchen

The portrait in Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992) of Count Dracula is modeled after a self-portrait by Dürer, with Gary Oldman's face.

15. Martin Luther

Soundtrack | Gangs of New York

Martin Luther was the founder of the Lutheran Church in the 16th Century. As a composer he also wrote such well known Christian hymns as "A Mighty Fortess Is Our God".

16. Francois Rabelais

Writer | Kraft Television Theatre

French satirist. Author of "Gargantua and Pantagruel", the famous medieval epic satire about giants. To date, it has never been filmed or dramatized for television.

17. Ludovico Ariosto

Writer | Orlando furioso

Alberto Savinio named his two children after two characters in Ariosto's poem "Orlando Furioso" (1516).

20. Michel de Nostredame

Writer | Nosutoradamusu no daiyogen

An apothecary before he began to practice the occult, Michel de Nostredame spent the early part of his career battling outbreaks of the bubonic plague in southern France, and northern Italy. Historians attribute his higher-than-average survival rates to his then-radical practice of personal hygiene...

21. Pieter Bruegel

The Pit and the Pendulum

Pieter Bruegel is known for his work on The Pit and the Pendulum (1991) and Human Nature: Creating It Comes at Night (2017). He died on September 9, 1569 in Brussels, Southern Netherlands.

22. Luís Vaz de Camões

Writer | A Comédia de Deus

In his sonnets he talks about love, women and life.

25. Christopher Marlowe

Writer | Doctor Faustus

Born the son of a shoe-maker two months before the birth of another famous playwright, William Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe achieved fame as an Elizabethan dramatist as well as an atheist. He was killed in a tavern brawl by a former friend, allegedly over a bill. There is now some evidence that...

28. Tycho Brahe

Tycho Brahe was born on December 14, 1546 in Knutstorp Castle, Scania, Denmark, Denmark-Norway as Tyge Ottesen Brahe. He died on October 24, 1601 in Prague, Habsburg Bohemia, Holy Roman Empire [now Czech Republic].

30. Giulio Cesare Della Croce

Writer | Bertoldo, Bertoldino e Cacasenno

Italian poet, dramatist, and satirist.

31. Michelangelo da Caravaggio

Actor | Five Revolutionary Painters

Michelangelo da Caravaggio was born on September 29, 1571 in Milan, Duchy of Milan, Holy Roman Empire as Michelangelo Merisi. He was an actor, known for Five Revolutionary Painters (1959) and Canvas (1966). He died on July 18, 1610 in Porto Ecole, Grand Duchy of Tuscany, Holy Roman Empire.

33. Carlo Gesualdo

Soundtrack | True Story

Born into the Italian nobility, Don Carlo Gesualdo developed an early and passionate interest in music. Though recognized as a dynamic composer who was far ahead of his time, Gesualdo's brilliance as a musical talent has been overshadowed by his violent personal life. After discovering his wife (...

34. William Shakespeare

Writer | M the Movie

William Shakespeare's birthdate is assumed from his baptism on April 25. His father John was the son of a farmer who became a successful tradesman; his mother Mary Arden was gentry. He studied Latin works at Stratford Grammar School, leaving at about age 15. About this time his father suffered an ...

35. Miguel de Cervantes y Saavedra

Writer | Don Quixote

Miguel de Cervantes' baptism occurred on October 9, 1547, at Alcala de Henares, Spain, so it is reasonable to assume he was born around that time, and Alcala de Henares has long claimed itself as his birthplace. The son of Rodrigo de Cervantes, an itinerant and not-too-successful surgeon, Miguel ...

38. John Fletcher

Writer | Whatever Next?

Principal dramatist for the King's Men folllowing the death of William Shakespeare.

39. Alessandro Striggio

Writer | L'Orfeo

Italian nobleman, diplomat, librettist, and musician born in or around 1573. As son of the composer Alessandro Striggio, he was also known as Alessandrino and Alessandro the Younger.

40. Johannes Kepler

German astronomer who discovered three major laws of planetary motion, conventionally designated as follows: (1) the planets move in elliptical orbits with the Sun at one focus; (2) the time necessary to traverse any arc of a planetary orbit is proportional to the area of the sector between the ...

41. John Donne

Writer | Bright Hair

In 1601 he eloped with Anne More, the 17-year-old niece of his employer, Sir Thomas Egerton. Donne was promptly arrested and imprisoned for marrying a minor without the consent of her guardians. He wrote his young bride a letter from prison, saying, "John Donne, Anne Donne, Undone.".

42. Félix Lope de Vega

Writer | Qartuli baletis ostatebi

He suffered many family misfortunes during his life. One of his daughters was carried off by a courtier, and another went blind and insane. His son was accidentally drowned.

43. Ben Jonson

Soundtrack | Sense and Sensibility

Benjamin Jonson was born 1571 as the posthumous son of a Protestant minister. His mother then moved him to Westminster, where she married a bricklayer. He attended a free parish school as a boy, and thanks to the sponsorship of the headmaster, was able to attend Westminster Grammar School. ...

44. Ivan Gundulic

Writer | Dubravka

Croatian poet and dramatist.

45. Peter Paul Rubens

Art Department | Sister Wendy at the Norton Simon Museum

Peter Paul Rubens was born on June 28, 1577 in Siegen, Nassau-Dillenburg, Holy Roman Empire. He is known for his work on Sister Wendy at the Norton Simon Museum (2002) and Visnews (1962). He died on May 30, 1640 in Antwerp, Spanish Netherlands [now Belgium].

46. Anthony van Dyck

Art Department | The Queen's Palaces

Anthony van Dyck was born on March 22, 1599 in Antwerp, Spanish Netherlands. He is known for his work on The Queen's Palaces (2011) and Visnews (1962). He was married to Mary Ruthven. He died on December 9, 1641 in London, Kingdom of England.

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