January 4, 1643 (December 25, 1642,Â per the antiquated Julian calendar) – Physicist and mathematician Isaac Newton is born in Woolsthorpe, Lincolnshire, England. Widely considered one of the (if not the) greatest scientists of all time, Newton is celebrated both for his invention of calculus and his discoveries relating to optics, mechanics and gravity. As the poet Alexander Pope wrote:Â Nature and nature’s laws lay hid in night;Â God said “Let Newton be” and all was light. Newton died in 1727, aged 84. While Newton himself was devoutly (albeit privately unorthodoxically) religious, and delved extensively into alchemy (which today is considered a pseudoscience), many 21st century freethinkers advocate observing “Newtonmas” on December 25th as an alternative to Christmas.
January 4, 2011 – Salmaan Taseer, governor of the Pakistani province of Punjab, is assassinated (because of his opposition to the country’s blasphemy law) by one of his own bodyguards. Pakiston’s blasphemy law (which can invoke the death penalty) continues to be used almost exlusively against religious (i.e. non-Muslim) minorities.
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