May 24, 1089 (traditional date): Archbishop of Canterbury, scholar, and church reformer Lanfranc dies. Known primarily for his development of the doctrine of transubstantiation, in which the eucharistic bread and wine become Christ's body and blood, he also educated brilliant scholar Anselm and future pope Alexander II.
May 24, 1543: Polish astronomer and cleric Nicolas Copernicus dies in Poland. His heliocentric (sun-centered) concept of the solar system was radical, though not unheard of before his time. Still, some theologians strongly criticized the theory. The Roman Catholic church never ordained Copernicus, but he participated in a religious community at the cathedral of Frauenburg (see issue 76: Christian Face of the Scientific Revolution).
May 24, 1689: Parliament passes England's Toleration Act, granting freedom of worship to Dissenters (non-Anglican Protestants). but not to Catholics and atheists.
May 24, 1738: Father of Methodism John Wesley feels his "heart strangely warmed" when he hears a reading of the preface to Luther's commentary on Romans in a Moravian chapel on Aldersgate Street in London (see issue 2: John Wesley and issue 69: Charles and John Wesley).
May 24, 1844: Samuel Morse sends the first long-distance telegraph message: "What hath God wrought.
May 24, 1854: Presbyterians found the first black college in the United States: Pennsylvania's Lincoln University.
May 24, 1878:Harry Emerson Fosdick, popular champion of liberal Christianity and often called "the most influential interpreter of religion to his generation," is born.
August 3, 1492: Christopher Columbus sets sail from Spain for the "Indies." Though the explorer was in part driven by a quest for gold and glory, he also saw himself as a missionary. He thought, if there were a shortcut to the East by sea, missionaries could be sent there faster, thus enabling Christians to meet the provision for world evangelization before the Lord could return (see issue 35: Christopher Columbus).