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January 25, 98: Upon the sudden death of Emperor Nerva, Trajan takes the throne. In 110, he asked Pliny the Younger to investigate a new superstition, "Christianity." Pliny's report of a relatively harmless though widespread cult led to moderate persecution—and the first recognition that Christians were distinct from Jews (see issue 27: Persecution in the Early Church).

January 25, 1627: Noted physicist and chemist Robert Boyle is born in Ireland. After a lifetime of writing about ...

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