Agatha Christie


Born: Sept 15, 1890 in Torquay, Devon, England
Died: Jan 12, 1976 (at age 85) in Wallingford, Oxfordshire, England
Nationality: British
Famous For: The Mousetrap, And Then There Were None

Agatha Christie was an English novelist who was best known for her crime fiction. In all, she wrote more than 60 novels and 15 short story collections in this genre. She created some of the literary world’s best known detectives, such as Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot, and many of her stories have been successfully adapted for stage and screen. The Mousetrap, which opened in the West End of London in 1952, is the world’s longest continuously running play. Christie also wrote several romances, using the pen name Mary Westmacott. Queen Elizabeth II made Christie a Dame in 1971.

Christie’s Early Life

Christie was born in the Devon resort of Torquay, the daughter of an American stockbroker. Her father barely saw her during her younger years and Agatha instead was looked after by her sister and mother. The young woman worked as a nurse during World War One, during which time she acquired considerable pharmaceutical knowledge, including details of a number of poisons. This served her well during her career as a detective writer.

Marriages and Disappearance

Shortly after the start of the war, she married a Royal Flying Corps pilot, although the marriage was unstable and ended in divorce in 1928. Two years before the divorce, Christie went missing for 11 days, shortly after a quarrel and after her husband asked her for a divorce. A massive search was conducted to find her, but she returned unharmed and never explained to anyone where she had gone.

Christie’s Career Beginnings

Christie married again in 1930, and this union was calmer. By this time, she was an established writer, having first made her name with The Mysterious Affair at Styles in 1920. This was her first book and it marked the debut of Hercule Poirot, although his character was initially written as that of a Belgian refugee.

The public response was very positive with favorable comparisons being made between Christie’s book and the still-popular works of Conan Doyle. Encouraged by the novel’s reception, Christie wrote more than 40 further books starring Poirot. Nevertheless, the author herself is said to have had more affection for her other enduring creation, the charming and elderly Miss Jane Marple.

Christie’s Literary Style

Most of the novels that Christie wrote followed a broadly similar path. A murder or murders were committed by an unusual – and sometimes remarkable – method, which very often involved the use of poisons. In a technique which came to be associated most strongly with the Poirot novels, the detective would carry out an interrogation of each person suspected of the crime, then gather them all together in a single room.

Here, he or she would explain, sometimes at considerable length, who had committed the murder and how they had done so. The novels’ success therefore rested less on unusual structure than on psychological thrills and suspense.

Post-WWII Work

Christie returned to her former interest of pharmacology during World War Two, when she was employed at University College London. After the return of peace, she continued to write extensively, with her novels becoming increasingly popular all over the world. The Mousetrap opened in London in 1952, and has never closed.

Later Years and Death

Her works were also often taken up by television and cinema, with 1974’s adaption of the Hercule Poirot mystery Murder on the Orient Express being Christie’s most notable big-screen success. By then she was becoming ill, possibly with Alzheimer’s disease, and she died at the age of 85 in 1976.

Albert Camus


Born: Nov 7, 1913 in Dréan, El Taref, French Algeria
Died: Jan 4, 1960 (at age 46) in Villeblevin, Yonne, Burgundy, France
Nationality: French-Algerian
Famous For: The Stranger, The Plague, The Myth of Sisyphus

As one of the legendary visionaries of existentialism in literature, Camus wrote a number of works that were bleak and focused on equally bleak characters.

Camus’ Early Years

Camus was born in French-controlled Algeria in 1913. He grew up in the shadow of the French/Algerian War and this heavily influenced his beliefs and his writings. Camus’ father died in World War One and the future author’s early years were often a struggle.

As he grew older, he enrolled in the University of Algiers. An illness required him to study part-time. He worked quite a number of odd jobs to help pay for his education. In time, he completed his formal education and began his career as a writer.

One of his most well known early works was The Rebel, which was an essay on the topic of nihilism, the belief that life has no meaning. Camus expanded his philosophical musing beyond nonfiction formats and into more thought-provoking fiction.

Works on Existentialism

One of the most telling lines from a Camus work is found in The Stranger when a character notes whether or not God exists really ”doesn’t matter.” Camus was a dark writer with a darkness that was not rooted in the horror genre, but in a philosophical movement known as existentialism.

This movement was rooted in seeing life on its own merits. The outlook on life was traditionally downbeat. Often, themes and narratives would embody nihilism. This is evident in the major works of Albert Camus.

Work in Nonfiction

Again, Camus would begin his career mostly writing nonfiction. During World War II, he wrote for the underground newspaper Combat, which was a dangerous thing to do during the Nazi occupation of France. In 1951, he published The Rebel, which not only reflected a love for nihilistic rebellion, but it also was an anticommunist screed.

Camus’ Work in Fiction

Camus would go on to write several major works that would have tremendous impact on world literature. The Myth of Sisyphus was a 120-page essay covering themes of the absurdity of man’s search for meaning. Sisyphus was the person in Greek literature that pushed a rock up a hill only to see it roll down and the task needed to be repeated. This character was used by Camus to draw parallels to human futilities.

The Plague was a work of fiction centering on a medical team left to deal with the aftermath of an Algerian town destroyed by a major plague. Themes of despair are covered in the work and the medical team acts as a microcosmic reminder of how small our world really is.

The Stranger is Camus’ most well-known work. It deals with a loner who is facing trial for murder and simply does not care because he has long since given up on life.

Camus died in a car accident in 1960. He was 46.

Alexandre Dumas


Born: July 24, 1802 in Villers-Cotterêts, Aisne, France
Died: Dec 5, 1870 (at age 68) in Puys (near Dieppe), Seine-Maritime, France
Nationality: French
Famous For: The Count of Monte Cristo, The Three Musketeers

Alexandre Dumas was a French author whose best-known works are historically-set adventure stories. The most famous of these include The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo, both of which have been translated into dozens of languages. The plentiful action and memorable characters in Dumas’ works have made them ideal for adaption to the big screen, with around 200 movies based on his writings having been produced.

Dumas’ Early Years

Dumas was born near Soissons on July 24, 1802. His background was remarkably mixed: his grandfather was of noble birth, but his grandmother was a black slave from Dominica. The family was poor after Alexandre’s father, who had served as a general during the French Revolution, died when the boy was only four years old. He did not excel in his studies, but his good handwriting allowed him to begin a career as a public notary. He quickly began to write, sometimes in collaboration with others, musical comedies and then plays centering on historical events.

Moving to Paris, Dumas was employed by the Duke of Orleans, the future King Louis Philippe. He was an enthusiastic patron of the theater, writing several plays after being much influenced by Shakespeare’s works. He achieved some success with a play about Henry III (Henry III and His Courts), but the revolution which gripped France in 1830 forced him to take a political stance. The new king was unimpressed by his support for Lafayette, and Dumas was briefly forced into exile. He took this opportunity to write a number of travelogues about his time abroad.

Later Works

When he returned to the French capital, Dumas first wrote more historical plays, which numbered around 20 by 1850. By now he was also writing prose in considerable volume: The Three Musketeers appeared in 1844 and The Count of Monte Cristo appeared two years later.

He was comfortable working either alone or in partnership with other writers, and a number of collaborators were engaged to assist him with working out the basic structure of his novels. Even without this help, Dumas was a hugely productive writer, with over 1,000 works being attributed to him in all.

Although by the middle of the 19th century, Dumas was theoretically a wealthy man thanks to the enthusiastic reception his books received. However, he was an inveterate spender of money. He was especially profligate when it came to his many female admirers and the hangers-on who surrounded his estate. Dumas had a generous nature in keeping with his larger-than-life image, but his spending sometimes grew so large that it threatened to overtake even his substantial income.

Later Life of Dumas

Dumas was a supporter of the 1848 Revolution, but he was forced into exile once again when Napoleon III came to power four years later. He went to Belgium where a diligent secretary managed to improve his financial position. Returning to Paris in 1853, Dumas founded an arts-based newspaper, Le Mousquetaire, which lasted for four years. After another failed attempt, he moved to Italy to curate Naples’ museums.

By 1864, Dumas was once again in debt, to the extent that collectors were actively pursuing him for money. But he nevertheless continued to lavish gifts on the women in his life. He continued to write, but works such as Madame de Chamblay were of a noticeably lower standard than his earlier writings. Dumas died in December of 1870, having sunk deep into a poverty softened only by the presence of his two children.

Anne Frank


Born: June 12, 1929 in Frankfurt am Main, Weimar Germany
Died: March 1945 (at age 15) in Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, Lower Saxony, Nazi Germany
Nationality: German
Famous For: The Diary of a Young Girl

Annelies Marie Frank, or Anne Frank, was a very famous Jewish victim of World War II and the Holocaust. Throughout the two years that Anne spent hiding with her family in their secret location during World War II, she kept a personal diary. Her diary was published posthumously by her father and it chronicles her activities and experiences during this time. Millions of people all over the world have read her diary.

Frank’s Early Years in Germany

Anne was born in June of 1929, in Frankfurt, Germany. She was the second daughter of Edith and Otto Frank. Her sister, Margot, was a couple of years older. The Frank family was middle-class and their ancestors had resided in Germany for hundreds of years. The family regarded Germany as their home and it was very difficult for all of them to depart Germany in 1933 for their new home in the Netherlands. They left Germany because of the anti-Semitic attitudes of the Nazis.

Leaving Germany for Amsterdam

Anne’s father first moved to Amsterdam during the summer of 1933, and there he established a Dutch firm that produced pectin. The rest of the family joined him in February of 1934. The family easily settled into their new life in Amsterdam. Anne and her sister attended school and quickly made new friends. Anne’s maternal grandmother left Germany in 1939 to join the family and stayed with them until she died in January of 1942.

Germany Occupies the Netherlands

In 1940, German soldiers attacked the Netherlands on May 10th. The Netherlands surrendered just five days later. Once the Nazis were in control of the country, they began establishing many anti-Jewish edicts and laws. Anne could no longer attend school with non-Jews. In May of 1942, all Jews (age six and older) were forced to wear a Star of David that was yellow.

The Frank family realized that just like in Germany, that death, as well as deportation was not far off for Jews living in the Netherlands. Otto started planning a way for them to escape. Since the Netherlands’ borders were closed, they could not leave the country. He decided that the family needed to go into hiding.

Frank’s Secret Annex

In 1942, the family decided to move to their hiding place on July 16th, but the plan changed when Margot was given a call up notice on July 5th. The next day, the family left their home at 37 Merwedeplein and moved into their hiding place.

Anne called their hiding place the Secret Annex. It was located at 263 Prinsengracht, her father’s place of business. Their hiding place was a three-story space that was located in the rear area of the building. A week later, another family, the van Pels, also moved into the hiding place.

In Anne’s published diary they were called the van Daans. The family included Auguste, Hermann, and son, Peter. The last person to arrive at the hiding place was Friedrich “Fritz” Pfeffer, who was called Albert Dussel in Anne’s diary.

Anne Frank’s Diary

On her 13th birthday, Anne received an autograph album and she decided to start using it as a personal diary. She started writing in it before she went into hiding. She wrote about her everyday life including items about her grades, friends, and about her ping pong playing.

She continued writing her diary until August of 1944. Most of the diary details the stifling and cramped living conditions. She also wrote about the personality conflicts that occurred with eight people living so close together. Additionally, Anne wrote about her various hopes and fears, as well as different facets of her character. She said she often felt misunderstood by everyone around her.

Arrest and Death

In 1944, on the morning of August 4th, many members of the Dutch Security and an SS officer arrived at 263 Prinsengracht. They went straight to the bookcase area that concealed the Secret Annex’s door. Everyone inside the Secret Annex was immediately arrested and taken to Westerbork. Miep Gies, a close friend of the family and an employee of Otto Frank, found the diary later that day.

Anne and everyone else who had been living in hiding place were sent to Auschwitz in September of 1944. They were all separated at Auschwitz, and several were moved to other camps. Anne and her sister were transferred to the Bergen-Belsen camp in October of 1944. In either late February or in the beginning of March of 1945, Anne’s sister died from typhus. A couple of days later, Anne also died from typhus.

Ayn Rand


Born: Feb 2, 1905 in Saint Petersburg, Russian Empire
Died: March 6, 1982 (at age 77) in New York City, New York, U.S.
Nationality: Russian Jewish
Famous For: The Fountainhead, Atlas Shrugged

Russian-American author Ayn Rand, best known for her philosophy-rich novels The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, was never a favorite among literary critics. However, her fiction, nonfiction, and collections of essays influenced a philosophical movement called Objectivism that is still alive and well.

Ayn Rand’s Early Years

Ayn Rand was born in St. Petersburg, Russia. Her father owned a pharmacy that was later confiscated when the Communists were successful in the 1917 Revolution, leaving Rand and her family facing starvation and difficult times.

Rand was a thoughtful, intelligent child, teaching herself to read at age six and, at age 9, deciding she wanted to devote her life to fiction writing. At eight years old, she encountered a fictional hero in a French magazine, the heroic ideal which would stay with her and feed her literary visions for the rest of her life.

The Philosophy of Ayn Rand

Ayn Rand’s personal philosophy, which eventually evolved into a school of thought called Objectivism, rejected faith and religion as ways of acquiring knowledge. In fact, Objectivism recognized only intelligent, individual reason as the means of obtaining knowledge.

Rand favored ethical and rational egoism over philosophies stressing altruism, therefore raising the worth of the individual and individual thought and reason over collective, herd politics. A firsthand witness of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution and its devastating personal effects on her family, Rand became a lifelong opponent of statism and collectivism.

She supported minimal government and “laissez-faire,” or “hands-off,” capitalism, believing the natural, intrinsic energies of the marketplace was not only the most effective way, but the only way, to protect individual rights.

Rand’s College Years

Rather than embracing the mysticism that was a huge part of Russian literature, Rand instead considered herself a European writer. French writer Victor Hugo was the writer she most admired.

She studied philosophy and history at the University of Petrograd, graduating in 1924. As the colorful Russian society gradually became dulled after the Communist victory, Rand increasingly found pleasure in operettas from Vienna and films and plays from the West. She began studying screenwriting later in 1924 at the State Institute for Cinema Arts.

Ayn Rand in Hollywood

In 1925, she wrote a booklet on actress Pola Negri entitled Hollywood: American Movie City, which was published in 1926. That booklet and another one she published were later republished in 1999 in the collection Russian Writing on Hollywood.

In late 1925, Rand obtained a visa to leave Communist Russia and visit relatives in the United States. She never returned, adopting the United States as her home country.

On her second day in Hollywood, movie legend Cecil B. DeMille saw her at the gate to his studio and hired her, initially as an extra and later, as a script reader. Just the next week, she met an actor, Frank O’Connor, who would provide the living model for her iconic fictional characters, characters such as the protagonist for The Fountainhead, Howard Roark. Rand and O’Connor were married in 1929 and were together for the next 50 years, until his death.

Rand Finds Success

While literary critics may have been confused by Rand’s fiction, the public appreciated its message championing individualism and, through word of mouth, made her 1943 novel, The Fountainhead, a bestseller. This was the first time a work of fiction had been propelled to the bestseller list strictly by public preference alone.

Rand worked hard to write the screenplay for The Fountainhead, but wartime sanctions and restrictions delayed production of the film until 1948. She began writing her novel Atlas Shrugged in 1946. It was published in 1957 and outlined her philosophy in dramatic fashion by using politics, sex, economics, ethics, and metaphysics to illustrate and underline important ideas.

After publication of Atlas Shrugged, Rand focused on writing about and lecturing on her philosophy, by then termed Objectivism, until her death in 1982. She wrote and published her own periodicals, spreading the word about Objectivism, which she called “a philosophy for living on Earth.”

Charles Dickens


Born: Feb 7, 1812 in Landport, Portsmouth, Hampshire, England
Died: June 9, 1870 (at age 58) in Gad’s Hill Place, Higham, Kent, England
Nationality: British
Famous For: The Pickwick Papers, Oliver Twist, A Christmas Carol, David Copperfield

The name Charles Dickens epitomizes 19th century living in London, and to date is a familiar household name in not just England, but all over the world. Famous for works such as A Christmas Carol and Oliver Twist, Dickens touched the heart of a nation, having survived the very horrific scenes that he described in his works.

Family and Early Life

Charles Dickens was born to a Naval Pay Office clerk on February 7, 1812, in Portsmouth. His family was constantly on the move and in financial difficulty. At just the age of twelve, Dickens was put to work in a factory after his father was arrested for debt. One of many siblings, the family was in constant turmoil and money was always an issue. Earning just six shillings a week in a boot-blacking factory, Dickens learned life the hard way and experienced neglect, poverty, and slavery firsthand.

Fortunately for Dickens, the economy improved and allowed him to return to education with him gaining his first job on leaving school in a solicitor’s office. The turmoil of his early childhood had however had a profound effect on him, the grim tales he told in his works being a true representation of what it was like to live in 19th century London below the poverty line.

Dickens’ Early Works

Charles Dickens learned shorthand in his early career and worked as a reporter for the Morning Chronicle. He published his first novel – The Pickwick Papers in 1836. Other early works to follow his initial success included Oliver Twist, Nicholas Nickleby, and Barnaby Rudge, published in 1837, 1839, and 1841 respectively. Later, in 1841, he traveled to America where he caused controversy by avidly supporting the abolition of slavery.

Later Works and Personal Life

In 1858, Dickens was to divorce his wife, Catherine, who he had ten children with. Later works included David Copperfield, A Christmas Carol, A tale of Two Cities and Great Expectations (in 1860 – 1861). The profound effect of his early life would be shown through his prominent views on social criticism, his life being unraveled to the reader through his excellent fictional publications.

Dickens’ Death

Throughout his career, Charles Dickens would write 15 novels as well as a large number of articles and short stories. He died on June 9, 1870, his wish being to be buried as he was born, with no fuss or fanfare. He wished for his body to be buried at a small cemetery in Rochester, but the British nation would not allow for such a prominent figure of their time to be buried in such a way.

Instead, Dickens was buried in Westminster Abbey in London, where thousands of mourners flocked to his grave to offer gifts of flowers to his open grave. Overflowing with bouquets, his grave symbolized his life from start to finish, many poor mourners choosing to wrap wild flowers in rags to lie alongside the richest of gifts from the upper classes.

C. S. Lewis


Born: Nov 29, 1898 in Belfast, Ireland
Died: Nov 22, 1963 (at age 64) in Oxford, England
Nationality: Irish
Famous For: The Chronicles of Narnia, Mere Christianity, The Screwtape Letters

Clive Staples Lewis, or C. S. Lewis, was one of the most popular Christian writers in the 20th century. His major literary contributions include popular theology, fantasy literature, and children’s literature. Lewis wrote over 30 books, making it possible for him to reach a large audience, and his well-known works still appeal to a large number of new readers today. His most prominent and popular achievements include Out of the Silent Planet, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Four Loves, Mere Christianity, and The Screwtape Letters.

Lewis’ Early Years

In 1898, Lewis was born on November 29th, in Belfast, Ireland. All through his life, he was called Jack by his friends and family, a nickname he invented for himself when he was four after the cherished neighborhood dog named Jacksie died. His only brother was Warren Hamilton Lewis. In 1908, Lewis’s mother passed away from cancer when he nine years old.

Lewis was enrolled in a boarding school at Belfast’s Campbell College in 1910. He left that school and enrolled in Malvern College in 1913. It was there, at age of 15, when Lewis became an atheist, leaving his childhood Christian faith. After attending Malvern, Lewis was privately tutored by William T. Kirkpatrick, who also had been his father’s tutor.

Lewis’ College Years

Lewis received a scholarship to attend the University College in Oxford in 1916. He took a break from his studies when WWI started, and in 1917, he enlisted in the British Army. In April of 1918, he was wounded during the Battle of Arras and discharged nearly a year later in December of 1919.

When he was serving in the army, he became good friends with Paddy Moore, his roommate. In 1918, his roommate was killed in battle. Following Lewis’s discharge, he kept his promise that he had made to Moore to take care of Moore’s family. In 1920, he then moved in with Moore’s mother, Jane, as well as her daughter, Maureen. Eventually, all of them moved to the “The Kilns,” a home which they bought together with his older brother, Warren.

Lewis’ Career

In May of 1925, Lewis became Oxford University’s Fellow and Tutor for their English Literature department. He held this position for nearly thirty years until 1954. During his first years at the university, he changed from being an atheist to becoming a very influential Christian writer in the 20th century.

The year was 1931 when he converted back to Christianity and then joined the Church of England. He pointed out that his friendship with J.R.R. Tolkien, along with the works of G.K. Chesterton (also converted had a major influence on his conversion.

He often discussed his works with Tolkien and others at his favorite Oxford pub. While at Oxford, he was the key member of the “The Inklings,” which is now a very famous literary group. The group held twice-weekly meetings and members included Tolkien, Charles Williams, Hugo Dyson, Nevill Coghill, Dr. Robert Havard, and Owen Barfield.

The Chronicles of Narnia

The Chronicles of Narnia, possibly Lewis’ most famous work due to the motion pictures that have been based on it, is about four siblings during wartime who walked through an armoire and entered a magical world called Narnia. It was a land that had many talking animals and mythical creatures. Various sections of the series symbolized different Biblical themes. Aslan, a lion, was a very prominent character and also Narnia’s ruler. He is representative of being a Christ-like figure.

Lewis’ Personal Life

Lewis married when he was 58 to Joy Gresham, who was an American writer. They were married in 1956, just two years after he accepted the chair of Cambridge’s Medieval and Renaissance Literature department. He stayed with this position until he retired. His wife died in 1960 from bone cancer. Lewis continued caring for her two sons, David and Douglas.

C. S. Lewis passed away in November of 1963, at his beloved home “The Kilns.” He was buried at the Holy Trinity Church which is in the Headington Quarry in Oxford. His brother, Warren, died in 1973, and their names are inscribed on one single headstone that bears the inscription, “Men must endure their going hence.”

Dale Carnegie


Born: Nov 24, 1888 in Maryville, Missouri
Died: Nov 1, 1955 (at age 66) in Forest Hills, New York
Nationality: American
Famous For: How to Win Friends and Influence People

Dale Carnegie was an American lecturer and writer. He was known for his creation of a number of courses in personal development and public skills, which he also wrote about in several books. He believed that people who modified their own behavior toward others could themselves modify those people’s own behavior. Carnegie’s most famous work, How to Win Friends and Influence People, remains a bestseller 75 years after it was first published.

Carnegie’s Early Years

Carnegie was born into a poor farming family in Maryville, Missouri, in 1888. Into his teens, he was required to get up at four o’clock each morning to milk the family cows, but was nevertheless able to be educated at the Warrensburg State Teacher’s College.

Once he had graduated college, Carnegie took a job selling correspondence courses, after which he worked for Armour & Company selling lard, soap, and bacon. He proved to have considerable business acumen: South Omaha, Nebraska, where he made his living, became the company’s most successful sales territory.

Carnegie Becomes a Lecturer

Despite this success, Carnegie was unhappy in his job and in 1911, he left to become a lecturer in the Cautauqua adult education movement. For reasons which remain unclear, he instead went to New York’s American Academy of Dramatic Arts, but his thespian career stalled to the extent that he was forced to reside at a YMCA.

In 1912, he gave a class in public speaking at the YMCA, discovering an innate talent for getting the best out of speakers. Word of Carnegie’s lectures spread, and by 1914, he was earning $500 weekly, a considerable sum at that time.

Carnegie as an Author

In 1916, he had the means to rent Carnegie Hall – named for the unrelated Andrew Carnegie – and spoke in front of a full house. Despite his success, it was not for a further decade that he finally published a collection of his writings, titled simply Public Speaking. He later changed the title to Public Speaking and Influencing Men in Business.

Extreme fame still awaited him, but this arrived in 1936 with the publication of How to Win Friends and Influence People. The book was a sensation, going through 17 printings in a matter of months and selling millions of copies worldwide.

Carnegie’s Fame

Carnegie’s methods brought him attention as far afield as Japan, and in 1939 he made the first of what were to be several trips to the country, both before and after World War Two. In 1948, he produced another enduring work, How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, in which he drew on his unhappy experiences in New York to try to encourage his readers to lead more fulfilling lives. As well as Carnegie’s own advice, the book contains a section in which a number of well-known personalities give their explanation for how they “conquered worry.” These include Gene Autry, J. C. Penney, and Jack Dempsey.

Carnegie’s Personal Life

Carnegie’s first marriage ended in divorce in 1931, and it was another 13 years before he married again. His second wife, Dorothy Price Vanderpool, was herself a divorcée with a daughter from an earlier marriage, a fact which certain sections of society of that time found a little scandalous.

Nevertheless, she and Carnegie lived happily together and had a daughter of their own, Donna Dale. Carnegie died in New York at the age of 66 in 1955, having suffered from Hodgkin’s Disease. He was buried in Missouri, the state where he had been born and grown up.

Dan Brown


Born: June 22, 1964 in Exeter, New Hampshire U.S.
Nationality: American
Famous For: Angels & Demons, The Da Vinci Code, The Lost Symbol

Dan Brown was born on June 22, 1964 in Exeter, New Hampshire. He was the first child born to his parents and has two younger siblings. His father was a mathematics teacher at Phillips Exeter Academy, where Brown spent a considerable amount of his childhood. His mother was involved in the Episcopalian church, and was even the church organist. Throughout his childhood, Dan was interested in puzzles and always worked on math problems that his parents gave him.

Brown’s Education

Dan also did a lot of crossword puzzles and anagrams during his spare time, as he loved working on them. His parents even hid presents for him on Christmas so he could discover them using clues they set out. He attended Phillips Exeter Academy and then went to Amherst College soon after. At this college, he became part of the Psi Upsilon fraternity as well as the Amherst Glee Club. He studied writing while in college and eventually graduated in 1986, after spending a year studying abroad in Spain.

Brown’s Career

Dan was not a writer when he graduated college. He actually decided to try for a musical career, which led him to creating SynthAnimals, which contained tracks for children. Soon after this he self-published a CD and created Dalliance, his own record company. To further his career, he decided to move to Hollywood, California, and looked for jobs being a pianist, singer, or songwriter. Since he did not find a job right away, he taught at Beverly Hills Preparatory School for an income.

Dan met Blythe Newlon in 1997, and she later ended up becoming his wife. He released a few more CDs, but his career never really took off like he would have liked. In 1993, he decided to move with his wife back to New Hampshire where he grew up. He found at a job at Phillips Exeter and Lincoln Akerman School teaching English and Spanish.

Career as an Author

Dan first thought of writing when he was inspired by the book The Doomsday Conspiracy. Soon after this, he quit his job and started writing Digital Fortress as well as a humor book that his wife wrote with him. In 1998, Digital Fortress was published, followed by another book that was written with Blythe. Since Brown quit his job in 1996, he had a lot of time to spend working on his novels. Angels and Demons was released in 2000 and then Deception Point was released in 2001.

None of Brown’s books were very popular until he released his most popular book, The Da Vinci Code, which was the book that gained him fame. This book sold over 81 million copies and pushed his other books into the limelight. Brown was even setting records and being featured on top lists by magazines. In 2006, this novel was turned into a movie starring Tom Hanks, but it was not well received and got many negative reviews from critics and viewers.

Dan Brown Today

Other books that Dan Brown wrote include The Lost Symbol and Inferno, both of which became bestsellers. The Lost Symbol is also schedule to become a film, but production is still in the early stages. Brown still writes today, mainly on books that feature Robert Langdon. He and his wife also created a scholarship fund for writing students at Amherst College.

Dante Alighieri


Born: c. 1265 in Florence, Italy
Died: Sept 9, 1321 (at age 56) in Ravenna
Nationality: Italian
Famous For: Divine Comedy

Dante Alighieri was an Italian prose writer, poet, moral philosopher, literary theorist, and political thinker. He is considered to be one of the best poets that the Western civilization has ever produced. He is well known for La Divina Commedia, or The Divine Comedy, which is thought of as the best literary work ever composed in the Italian language.

Dante’s Childhood

Dante was born into the prominent Alighieri family of Florence, Italy, in 1265. He was the son of Alighieri de Bellincione and Donna Gabriella. As a kid, he was nicknamed Durante in Florence’s Baptistery. The name Dante is the shortened version of Durante.

In those days, Italy was not a united nation, but a collection of small city-states. Power struggles between noble families were the source of wars between states. The elder Dante, heir of the poor but noble family, was among seven elected officials in charge of the Florence government when the collision in the street during the May Festival in 1300 resulted in a fight that escalated into the civil war that got Dante’s party overthrown and its leaders exiled from Florence.

Dante’s Education

Dante’s first studies were mostly in grammar, rhetoric, philosophy, theology and literature. He was a disciple of Brunetto Latini, who influenced his cultural growth. In his teens, Dante was a Stilnovo poet and had many friends among other members of Stilnovo Poetical School. When Bice di Folco died, Dante started studying theology and philosophy in depth, also attending some of cultural associations in the city of Florence which offered lessons about Aristotle as well as St. Thomas Aquinas.

Dante as an Author

In 1293, Dante published the book known as The New Life. In the book, Dante related how he fell in love with Beatrice and found his joy in thinking about her. Shortly thereafter, Dante published De Vulgari Eloquentia, the argument for composing poems and other works in a language that people speak (Italian language in this case) instead of Latin.

He then wrote The Banquet, in which he discusses styles of poetry and grammar as well as complains that his poems and to explain that some of the things he wrote in the book Vito Nuova have been misunderstood.

In 1313, Dante published On Monarchy, in which he stated that the authority of the secular prince is not derived from that of the church, and it is not given to him by the Pope, but from God. When he started writing The Divine Comedy is not known. However, it appears that Dante completed the first of its 3 parts by the year 1314 and the last part before his death.

Dante’s Exile and Death

In 1315, Uguccione Della Faggiuola forced Florence to grant amnesty to the exiles. Florence agreed but required that in addition to paying a huge amount of cash, the exiles would do a public penance. But Dante refused. When Uguccione conquered Florence, Dante’s death verdict was reduced to house arrest, on one condition– that he vowed to never return to the town.

When Dante declined to go, Uguccione confirmed his death sentence and also extended it to his children. Dante Alighieri still hoped that one day he may be invited back to his home town on honorable terms, but he died in exile in 1321.