Born on February 17

624 Wu Zetian a Chinese sovereign, who ruled officially under the name of her self-proclaimed "Zhou dynasty", from 690 to 705. She was the only female emperor of China in more than 4,000 years. She had previous imperial positions, however, under both Emperor Taizong of Tang and his son Emperor Gaozong of Tang, of the Tang dynasty of China. Wu was a concubine of Emperor Taizong. After his death she married his successor and ninth son, Emperor Gaozong, officially becoming Gaozong's furen in 655, although having considerable political power prior to this. After Gaozong's debilitating stroke in 690, Wu Zetian ruled as effective sovereign until 705. She is the only recorded woman to rule China in her own right
1201 Nasir al-Din al-Tusi a Persian polymath and prolific writer: An architect, astronomer, biologist, chemist, mathematician, philosopher, physician, physicist, scientist, theologian and Marja Taqleed. He was of the Ismaili-, and subsequently Twelver Shī‘ah Islamic belief. The Muslim scholar Ibn Khaldun considered Tusi to be the greatest of the later Persian scholars
1490 Charles III Duke of Bourbon a French military leader, the Count of Montpensier and Dauphin of Auvergne. He commanded the Imperial troops of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V in what became known as the Sack of Rome in 1527, where he was killed
1519 Francis Duke of Guise a French soldier and politician.
1524 Charles Cardinal of Lorraine a French Cardinal, a member of the powerful House of Guise. He was known at first as the Cardinal of Guise, and then as the second Cardinal of Lorraine, after the death of his uncle, John, Cardinal of Lorraine. He was the protector of Rabelais and Ronsard and founded Reims University. He is sometimes known as the Cardinal de Lorraine
1581 Fausto Poli a Roman Catholic prelate and Cardinal.
1646 Pierre Le Pesant sieur de Boisguilbert a French law-maker and a Jansenist, one of the inventors of the notion of an economical market.
1653 Arcangelo Corelli an Italian violinist and composer of the Baroque era.
1699 Georg Wenzeslaus von Knobelsdorff a painter and architect in Prussia.
1704 Józef Pułaski a Polish noble, starost of Warka, deputy to Sejm, one of the creators and members of the Bar Confederation.
1704 Prince John August of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg a German prince, member of the House of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg.
1717 Adam Friedrich Oeser a German etcher, painter and sculptor.
1718 Matthew Tilghman an American planter and Revolutionary leader from Maryland, who served as a delegate to the Continental Congress from 1774 to 1776.
1723 Tobias Mayer a German astronomer famous for his studies of the Moon.
1730 Richard Pulteney an English physician and botanist. He was a promoter of Linnaean taxonomy, and authored the first English language biography of Carl Linnaeus, entitled A General View of the Writings of Linnaeus. He was educated at Loughborough Grammar School, and a school house was named after him
1739 Dositej Obradović a Serbian author, philosopher, linguist, traveler, polyglot and the first minister of education of Serbia. An influential protagonist of the Serbian national and cultural renaissance, he advocated Enlightenment and rationalist ideas while remaining a Serbian patriot and an adherent of the Serbian Orthodox Church. Founder of modern Serbian literature, he is commonly referred to by his mononym, first name alone. He became a monk in the Serb Orthodox monastery of Hopovo, in the Srem region, and acquired the name Dositej. He translated many European classics, including Aesop's Fables, into Serbian
1740 Horace-Bénédict de Saussure a Swiss aristocrat, physicist and Alpine traveller, often considered the founder of alpinism, and considered to be the first person to build a successful solar oven.
1752 Friedrich Maximilian Klinger a German dramatist and novelist. His play Sturm und Drang gave name to the Sturm und Drang artistic epoch. He was a childhood friend of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and is often closely associated with Jakob Michael Reinhold Lenz. Klinger worked as a playwright for the Seylersche Schauspiel-Gesellschaft for two years, but eventually left the Kingdom of Prussia to become a General in the Imperial Russian Army
1754 Nicolas Baudin a French explorer, cartographer, naturalist and hydrographer.
1755 Thomas Truxtun an American naval officer after the Revolutionary War, when he served as a privateer, who rose to the rank of commodore in the late eighteenth century and later served in the Quasi-War with France and the First Barbary War in North Africa. He was one of the first six commanders appointed to the new US Navy by President Washington. During his naval career he commanded a number of famous US naval ships including USS Constellation and USS President. Later in civilian life he became involved with politics and was also elected Sheriff
1755 Charles Manners-Sutton a priest in the Church of England who served as Archbishop of Canterbury from 1805 to 1828.
1760 Apollo Mussin-Pushkin a Russian chemist and plant collector. He led a botanical expedition to the Caucasus in 1802 with his friend botanist Friedrich August Marschall von Bieberstein
1765 James Ivory (mathematician) a Scottish mathematician.
1769 Johannes Baptista von Albertini a German botanist and clergyman of the Moravian Church. He was born in the town of Neuwied
1774 Mykhajlo Levitsky the Metropolitan Archbishop of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church from 1816 until his death in 1858 and a Cardinal of the Catholic Church.
1781 René Laennec a French physician. He invented the stethoscope in 1816, while working at the Hôpital Necker and pioneered its use in diagnosing various chest conditions
1781 Gustav Landgrave of Hesse-Homburg landgrave of the German state of Hesse-Homburg from 1846 to 1848.
1782 Fyodor Ivanovich Tolstoy a Russian nobleman from the well-known Tolstoy family. Possessed of an unusual temper, he became famous for his gambling, his passion for duels, and his voyage to North America, where he earned his nickname. He was acquainted with many famous authors of his period and served as a prototype for some of the characters in their works
1792 Karl Ernst von Baer an Estonian scientist and explorer. Baer is also known in Russia as Karl Maksimovich Baer
1794 Carl Borivoj Presl a Bohemian botanist.
1796 Frederick William Beechey an English naval officer and geographer.
1796 Philipp Franz von Siebold a German physician, botanist, and traveler. He taught some pupils Western medicine in Japan. He achieved prominence for his study of Japanese flora and fauna, and was the father of female Japanese doctor, Kusumoto Ine
1798 Josef Matěj Navrátil a Czech painter.
1803 Edgar Quinet a French historian and intellectual.
1803 Lockroy a French actor and playwright.
1804 Louis de Carné a French politician, journalist and historian.
1808 Paul de Ladmirault a French general active in the French conquest of Algeria and during the wars of the Second French Empire.
1810 Andrey Krayevsky a Russian publisher and journalist, best known for his work as an editor-in-chief of Otechestvennye Zapiski , the influential literary journal he was also the publisher Another well-known publication that Krayevsky founded was the popular newspaper Golos.
1816 Haller Nutt an American Southern planter. He was a successful cotton planter and plantation owner in Mississippi. He developed a strain of cotton that became important commercially for the Deep South
1817 Édouard Thilges a Luxembourgish politician. He was the seventh Prime Minister of Luxembourg, serving for over three years, from 20 February 1885 until 22 September 1888
1819 Philipp Jaffé a German historian and philologist. The Schwersenz native, despite discrimination against his Jewish religion, was one of the most important German medievalists of the 19th century
1820 Henri Vieuxtemps a Belgian composer and violinist. He occupies an important place in the history of the violin as a prominent exponent of the Franco-Belgian violin school during the mid-19th century. He is also known for playing upon what is now known as the Vieuxtemps Guarneri del Gesu, a violin of superior workmanship
1821 Lola Montez an Irish dancer and actress who became famous as a "Spanish dancer", courtesan, mistress of King Ludwig I of Bavaria, who made her Countess of Landsfeld. She used her influence to institute liberal reforms. At the start of the Revolutions of 1848 in the German states, she was forced to flee. She proceeded to the United States via Switzerland, France and London, returning to her work as an entertainer and lecturer
1822 Georg Weerth a German writer. Weerth's poems celebrated the solidarity of the working class in its fight for liberation from exploitation and oppression. He was a friend and companion of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, who described Georg Weerth as the first and most significant poet of the German proletariat
1824 William Farrar Smith a Union general in the American Civil War, notable for attracting the extremes of glory and blame. He was praised for his gallantry in the Seven Days Battles and Antietam, but was demoted for insubordination after the disastrous defeat at Fredericksburg. As chief engineer of the Army of the Cumberland, he acquired legendary fame by restoring a supply-line that saved that army from starvation and surrender. Leading the first operation against Petersburg, Smith’s hesitation, possibly illness-related, cost the Union a prime opportunity for a quick end to the war, and he was relieved of command
1825 Albrecht Weber a German Indologist and historian.
1827 Maria Francesca Rossetti an English author. She was the sister of artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti as well as William Michael Rossetti and Christina Georgina Rossetti, who dedicated her 1862 poem Goblin Market to Maria. She was born in London
1830 Gerard Krefft Johann Ludwig Gerard Krefft , one of Australia's first and greatest zoologists and palaeontologists. In addition to many scientific papers, his books include The Snakes of Australia, A Catalogue of the Minerals and Rocks in the Australian Museum and A Short Guide to the Australian Fossil Remains in the Australian Museum. He published the scientific description of the Queensland Lungfish, considered a "living fossil"
1837 Pierre Auguste Cot a French painter of the Academic Classicism school.
1837 Samuel van Houten a Dutch liberal politician.