Herman Melville (1819-1891), was an American author known primarily for the writing of Moby-Dick, or, The Whale, which has become common reading material for high schools and has had quite a few adaptations made from it. Billy Budd is perhaps his second-best well-known novel and also highly regarded.
His first two novels, Typee and Omoo made him one of the most famous authors in the United States overnight. One of his short stories, "Bartleby, the Scrivener" is also quite well known. However, his most famous works were not successful in his lifetime. Moby Dick failed pretty decisively and Billy Budd wasn't even published while he was alive. During his life, he was known for Typee, a pretty ordinary travel story in Polynesia, which you would probably never read today unless you take a course entirely about him.