January 15, 345 (traditional date): Paul of Thebes, traditionally considered the first Christian hermit and an inspiration for Antony of Egypt and later Christian monasticism, dies (see issue 64: Antony and the Desert Fathers).
January 15, 1697: Massachusetts citizens observe a day of fasting and repentance for the Salem witch trials of 1692, in which 19 suspected witches were hanged and more than 150 imprisoned. The day was declared "That so all of God's people may offer up fervent supplications unto him, that all iniquity may be put away, which hath stirred God's holy jealousy against this land; that he would show us what we know not, and help us, wherein we have done amiss, to do so no more" (see issue 41: American Puritans).
January 15, 1844: The University of Notre Dame, America's premiere Roman Catholic institution of higher learning, is chartered in South Bend, Indiana.
January 15, 1929: Baptist minister Martin Luther King, Jr., America's most visible civil rights leader from 1955 until his assassination in 1968, is born in Atlanta.
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 ...