Denmark's greatest classic writer and the founder of Danish literature is Ludvig Holberg (1684–1754), historian, philologist, philosopher, critic, and playwright, whose brilliant satiric comedies are internationally famous. Another important dramatist and poet is Adam Gottlob Oehlenschlaeger (1779–1850). The two most celebrated 19th-century Danish writers are Hans Christian Andersen (1805–75), whose fairy tales are read and loved all over the world, and the influential philosopher and religious thinker Søren Kierkegaard (1813–55). Nikolaj Frederik Severin Grundtvig (1783–1872), noted theologian and poet, was renowned for his founding of folk high schools, which brought practical education to the countryside. The leading European literary critic of his time was Georg Morris Brandes (Cohen, 1842–1927), whose Main Currents in 19th-Century European Literature exerted an influence on two generations of readers. Leading novelists include Jens Peter Jacobsen (1847–85); Martin Anderson Nexø (1869–1954), author of Pelle the Conquerer (1906–10) and Ditte (1917–21); and Johannes Vilhelm Jensen (1873–1950), who was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1944 for his series of novels. Karl Adolph Gjellerup (1857–1919) and Henrik Pontoppidan (1857–1943) shared the Nobel Prize for literature in 1917. Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixen, 1885–1962) achieved renown for her volumes of gothic tales and narratives of life in Africa. Jeppe Aaksjaer (1866–1930), poet and novelist, is called the Danish Robert Burns. A great film artist is Carl Dreyer (1889–1968), known for directing The Passion of Joan of Arc, Day of Wrath, and Ordet . Famous Danish musicians include the composers Niels Gade (1817–90) and Carl Nielsen (1865–1931), the tenors Lauritz Melchior (1890–1973) and Aksel Schiøtz (1906–75), and the soprano Povla Frijsh (d.1960). Notable dancers and choreographers include August Bournonville (1805–79), originator of the Danish ballet style; Erik Bruhn (1928–86), who was known for his classical technique and was director of ballet at the Royal Swedish Opera House and of the National Ballet of Canada; and Fleming Ole Flindt (b.1936), who has directed the Royal Danish Ballet since 1965. The sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen (1770–1844) is the artist of widest influence.
Notable scientists include the astronomers Tycho Brahe (1546–1601) and Ole Rømer (1644–1710); the philologists Ramus Christian Rask (1787–1832) and Otto Jespersen (1860–1943); the physicist Hans Christian Ørsted (1777–1851), discoverer of electromagnetism; Nobel Prize winners for physics Niels Bohr (1885–1962) in 1922 and his son Aage Niels Bohr (b.1922) and Benjamin Mottelson (b.1926) in 1975; Niels Rybert Finsen (b.Faroe Islands, 1860–1904), August Krogh (1874–1949), Johannes A. G. Fibiger (1867–1928), and Henrik C. P. Dam (1895–1976), Nobel Prize-winning physicians and physiologists in 1903, 1920, 1926, and 1944, respectively. Frederik Bajer (1837–1922) was awarded the Nobel Prize for peace in 1908. Knud Johan Victor Rasmussen (1879–1933), explorer and anthropologist born in Greenland, was an authority on Eskimo ethnology.
Queen Margrethe II (b.1940) became sovereign in 1972.