Martin Luther posts 95 theses On this day in 1517, the priest and scholar Martin Luther approaches the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany, and nails a piece of paper to it containing the 95 revolutionary opinions that would begin the Protestant Reformation. In his theses, Luther condemned the excesses and corruption of the Roman Catholic Church, especially the papal practice of asking payment—called “indulgences”—for the forgiveness of sins. At the time, a Dominican priest named Johann Tetzel, commissioned by the Archbishop of Mainz and Pope Leo X, was in the midst of a major fundraising campaign in Germany to finance the renovation of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Though Prince Frederick III the Wise had banned the sale of indulgences in Wittenberg, many church members traveled to purchase them. When they returned, they showed the pardons they had bought to Luther, claiming they no longer had to repent for their sins. Luther’s frustration with this practice led him to write the 95 Theses, which were quickly snapped up, translated from Latin into German and distributed widely. A copy made its way to Rome, and efforts began to convince Luther to change his tune. He refused to keep silent, however, and in 1521 Pope Leo X formally excommunicated Luther from the Catholic Church. That same year, Luther again refused to recant his writings before the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V of Germany, who issued the famous Edict of Worms declaring Luther an outlaw and a heretic and giving permission for anyone to kill him without consequence. Protected by Prince Frederick, Luther began working on a German translation of the Bible, a task that took 10 years to complete. The term “Protestant” first appeared in 1529, when Charles V revoked a provision that allowed the ruler of each German state to choose whether they would enforce the Edict of Worms. A number of princes and other supporters of Luther issued a protest, declaring that their allegiance to God trumped their allegiance to the emperor. They became known to their opponents as Protestants; gradually this name came to apply to all who believed the Church should be reformed, even those outside Germany. By the time Luther died, of natural causes, in 1546, his revolutionary beliefs had formed the basis for the Protestant Reformation, which would over the next three centuries revolutionize Western civilization. 1963 Ed Sullivan witnesses Beatlemania firsthand, paving the way for the British Invasion In the autumn of 1963, Beatlemania was a raging epidemic in Britain, and it was rapidly spreading across the European continent. But in the United States, where the likes of Bobby Vinton and Jimmy Gilmer and the Fireballs sat atop the pop charts, John, Paul, George and Ringo could have walked through Grand Central Terminal completely unnoticed. It wasn’t Grand Central that the Beatles were trying to walk through on this day in 1963, however—it was Heathrow Airport, London, where they’d just returned from a hugely successful tour of Sweden. Also at Heathrow that particular day, after a talent-scouting tour of Europe, was the American television impresario Ed Sullivan. The pandemonium that Sullivan witnessed as he attempted to catch his flight to New York would play a pivotal role in making the British Invasion possible. It wasn’t for lack of trying that the Beatles were still unknown in the United States. Their manager Brian Epstein had tried and failed repeatedly to convince Capitol Records, the American arm of their British label EMI, to release the singles that had already taken Europe by storm. Convinced that the Merseybeat sound wouldn’t translate across the Atlantic, Capitol declined to release “Please Please Me,” “From Me to You” and “She Loves You,” allowing all three to be released on the minor American labels Vee-Jay and Swan and to languish on the pop charts without any promotion. Desperate to crack the American market, John Lennon and Paul McCartney wrote a song explicitly tailored to the American market and recorded it just two weeks before their fateful indirect encounter with Ed Sullivan. That song was “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” Ed Sullivan had his staff make inquiries about the Beatles following his return to the United States, and Brian Epstein arranged to travel to New York to open negotiations. And in what surely must rank as one of the greatest one-two punches in the history of professional talent-management, Epstein convinced The Ed Sullivan Show to have the Beatles as headliners for three appearances rather than as a one-time, mid-show novelty act, and he then leveraged that contract into an agreement by Capitol Records to release “I Want To Hold Your Hand” in the United States and back it with a $40,000 promotional campaign. As a result of the chance encounter at Heathrow on this day in 1963, and of Brian Epstein’s subsequent coup in New York, the Beatles would arrive in the United States on February 7, 1964, with a #1 record already to their credit. The historic Ed Sullivan appearances that followed would lead to five more in the next 12 months.