Little Bits of History

February 24

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 24, 2017

1582: Inter gravissimas is issued. The papal bull was written in Latin and Pope Gregory XIII was setting forth the way to realign the calendar with the actual orbit of the planet. The Catholic calendar used older methods to determine the dates for some feasts, most notably – Easter. In order to accurately place the celebration for Christ’s triumph over death, there were three things that needed to be restored. The first of these was the correct placement of the northern vernal equinox or the first day of spring. The next calculation needed was the proper identification of the “14th day of the moon” or as we would call it, the full moon. After these two pieces of information were available, the next Sunday after this full moon after the vernal equinox would be Easter.

The Council of Nicaea was held in summer of 325. At that time, March 21 was when the sun was aligned with the equator as it moved northward into the summer solstice. Since a year is not actually 365 days long, calculations had been made by the older calendar to create a more accurate time table. But the year is also not exactly 365.25 days long either and the planet had drifted away from the original location over 1200 years earlier. Not only is there a problem with the Earth’s orbit around the Sun, but the Moon’s orbit around the Earth isn’t exact either. So the new calendar would make the full moon actually occur at the time of the full moon which removed “four days and more” of further drift. This would realign Easter with where it was originally found in 325.

The new calendar would simply change the numbers of the date. Pope Gregory had no authority over the entire globe, but Catholic countries were mandated to update their calendars in October of 1582. Thursday, October 4 was followed by Friday, October 15. This realigned the old style calendar with the solar year. However, other countries/places around the world were using a variety of other calendars. In fact, even today, there are many different ways to compute the date and many places have more than one calendar in use. The Gregorian calendar is almost universally recognized as the most accurate, but religious and national calendars remain in use for internal reasons, as well.

The longer it took to accept the new solar calendar, the greater the change in the dates. Between the years 1900 and 2100, a change of 13 days would be needed to upgrade a Julian calendar to a Gregorian. Russia finally accepted the “new” calendar in 1918 although they had changed their new year’s day to January 1 in 1700 whereas Great Britain and the British Empire took until 1752 for that to take place (it had been on March 25 prior to that). Even now, there is some confusion when giving a date. Some places add OS or NS to the date, to let the reader know if the Julian (OS) calendar or the Gregorian (NS) date is being used. Extending the dates backwards creates a proleptic calendar and is confusing so should be used only with great caution.

Don’t be fooled by the calendar. There are only as many days in the year as you make use of. – Charles Richards

Tomorrow is only found in the calendar of fools. – Og Mandino

I don’t wait for the calendar to figure out when I should live life. – Gene Simmons

Ethics and equity and the principles of justice do not change with the calendar. – D. H. Lawrence

Skipping Ahead

Posted in History by patriciahysell on September 2, 2015
Pope Gregory

Pope Gregory

September 2, 1752: Great Britain and all her colonies adopt the Gregorian calendar. It is also called the Western or Christian calendar and is the most widely used civil calendar in use today. It was named for Pope Gregory XIII who introduced it in 1582. The Julian calendar had been a great improvement when Julius Caesar introduced it in 45 BC. It was this calendar that divided the 365 days of the year into twelve months. The months were not quite the same name since August, named for Augustus would not have been included before his rule. Quintilis (Latin for fifth) was the month eventually named after Caesar himself, first as Iulius and then as July.

The Julian calendar was just slightly off. The 0.002% was barely noticeable. But after 1627 years, it had added up to make enough of a difference that plotting out when exactly Easter should be was a problem. Easter’s date is tied to the spring equinox and it was falling at an inappropriate time. The creation of the new calendar had two parts, a reform of the calendar in regards to the lunar cycle and a reform to calculate a more appropriate date for Easter. It was initially adopted only by Catholic European countries. Protestant and Eastern Orthodox countries continued to use the Julian calendar with Greece being the last to adopt the newfangled thing only in 1923.

The Earth’s trip around the sun isn’t conveniently perfectly aligned with its rotational spin. Therefore, even with a leap day added every fourth year, it was still going to eventually be out of sync again. It takes 365 day, 5 hours, 49 minutes, and 12 seconds for the Earth to get precisely around the sun. The ten minutes and 48 seconds needed to be accounted for and so there are certain times when the leap day is skipped. The Julian calendar was pretty precise but the Gregorian calendar was even more precise by skipping three leap days every 400 years. We are used to the year starting on January 1, but this has not always been the case. Regardless of when the first day of the year is, it is still 365.2425 days long.

European Catholic countries were quick to adopt the calendar. Nova Scotia, Prussia, and Alsace all picked it up in the 1600s. Protestant Germany, Netherlands, Norway, and Iceland all switched in 1700. The next country to pick up the calendar was Great Britain. The Calendar (New Style) Act 1750, also called Chesterfield’s Act because it was introduced into Parliament by Lord Chesterfield, not only adopted the Gregorian calendar, but switched the start of the year from March 25 (Lady Day) to January 1. With more international trade and communication, it became increasingly  difficult to have two different calendars. In order to align the calendar with what most of the rest of Europe was using, Wednesday, September 2, 1752 was followed by Thursday, September 14.

Every time you tear a leaf off a calendar, you present a new place for new ideas and progress. – Charles F. Kettering

Most modern calendars mar the sweet simplicity of our lives by reminding us that each day that passes is the anniversary of some perfectly uninteresting event. – Oscar Wilde

Don’t be fooled by the calendar. There are only as many days in a year as you make use of. One man gets only a week’s value out of a year while another gets a full year’s value out of a week. – Charles Richards

We must not allow the clock and the calendar to blind us to the fact that each moment of life is a miracle and mystery. – H. G. Wells

Also on this day: Liberal Arts and Music – In 1833, Oberlin College was founded.
London Burns – In 1666, the Great Fire of London began.
World War II – In 1945, the war ended.
Rock Springs – In 1885, the Rock Springs Massacre took place.
Buried – In 1806, a Swiss city was buried in a landslide.

Time is Flexible

Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 1, 2014
Swedish calendar with the peculiar date of February 30

Swedish calendar with the peculiar date of February 30

March 1, 1700: The Swedish calendar takes effect. The goal of implementing this peculiar-to-Sweden calendar was to bring the country and her possessions into line with the Gregorian calendar without making an instant leap from the Julian calendar then in use. It was decided that rather than jump forward the eleven days between the two systems, Sweden would simple drop the leap year days for the next forty years and eventually they would be aligned with the calendar used by much of the world. They dropped the leap year day during this year and then promptly abandoned the idea.

Since they did not follow their own plan, they matched neither calendar and had their own date for all of their colonies. This became inconvenient enough so that on March 1, 1712, they reverted back to the Julian calendar as proclaimed by King Charles XII. However, this calendar was not aligned with the solar year and it made planning the date for Easter difficult. It did give Sweden the unique date of February 30, 1712 to realign their trial calendar with the older one. Finally, in 1753, again on March 1, they finally adopted the more accurately aligned Gregorian calendar. Because Easter is based on an older Jewish calendar which is a lunar calendar, the whole system was in chaos.

Julius Caesar had the same issues back when he assumed control of the Roman Empire. The Romans were supposed to add an intercalary month to the year when it was needed to bring the calendar back in line with solar year. Certain dates were considered auspicious and sometimes adding to the calendar would have interfered with actual battles and wars which were even more important than when to plant crops. Since the entire thing was out of alignment, the Julian calendar neatened things up. Unfortunately, the time it takes the planet to make one full rotation around the sun is not 365 days on the dot. Instead, it takes 365 days and 6 hours – about. The tropical year is around 11 minutes and 14 seconds less than that.

This precise type of measurement was not available in Rome or not as important. It took hundreds and hundreds of years before the calendars were no longer accurate enough to start bothering the citizens of the world, or at least Europe and the Americas. So further refinements were made and backed by Pope Gregory XIII. All this took place after the Protestant Reformation and countries that were not Catholic were somewhat hesitant to adopt the new calendar since it was seen as overbearing nonsense from the Vatican. The longer the Julian calendar was used, the further from alignment with the true solar year it became. More and more countries adopted the new Gregorian calendar. Today, it is used worldwide for international transactions although there are still many other calendars used locally and religiously.

I’ve been on a calendar, but I’ve never been on time. – Marilyn Monroe

I don’t wait for the calendar to figure out when I should live life. – Gene Simmons

I’ve never been one of those who wanted to fill my calendar up 90 percent of the time. – Gilbert Gottfried

You are right that I don’t have a lot of spare time because I love to stay busy and keep my calendar full. – Kiana Tom

Also on this day: Peace Corps – In 1961, the Peace Corps was formed.
Saint David – In 589, St. David of Wales died.
Salem Witch Trials Begin – In 1692, the mass hysteria known as the Salem Witch Trials started.
The Buckeye State – In 1803, Ohio became a state, but it took until 1953 for it to be official.

No Day

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 5, 2011

Pope Gregory

October 5, 1582: This date does not exist in Italy, Poland, Portugal, and Spain. The Julian calendar fixed many problems, but it was not a perfect solution. Dates were slipping out of sync with the seasons. That is because there are not 365 days per year, but 365.24219 days per tropical year and 365.2424 days per vernal equinox year. To realign dates (particularly March 21) with the season (particularly spring), the calendar needed updating. Easter’s date is highly important to Christians and is predicated on the vernal equinox. The new calendar was named for Pope Gregory who instituted the change.

The Catholic Church’s authority didn’t reach quite far enough. The switch to the new calendar was not universal. Even though science was behind the change, the Church of England was having none of it.Britainand her colonies did not convert until 1752. Adoption of the newfangled calendar slowly progressed. Greece finally accepted the naming convention in 1923 – the last country in Europe – and Turkey succumbed in 1926 – the last country to convert.

While the Gregorian calendar is the most frequently used in the world, it is not the only calendar in use. In fact, there are 35 other calendars from the Armenian to the Zoroastrian also in use. Many businesses use a fiscal year in concert with the calendar year. A fiscal year is any 12-month period. There are 16 other archaic or out of use calendars that we know of. All these calendars make date conversion difficult at best.

Calendar reform is constant. Today there is a push for a World Calendar. It is a 12-month perennial calendar meaning that the date is always on the same day of the week. January 1 is always on a Sunday year after year. The calendar is divided into quarters with each having 91 days. Each quarter has a 31-day and two 30-day months. Each month has 26 workdays. There is a “Leapyear Day” that is the last day of June, outside the normal week and numbering system that is like our current leap year day. There is a second day that is the last day of December called “Worldsday” – a holiday outside the numbering system as well. The world calendar offers simplification of dates like Thanksgiving and Election Day and makes business comparisons between quarters easier. Besides the difficulty of implementation, there is the disadvantage with religious groups with the 8-day week once or twice a year. For triskaidekaphobics, Friday the 13th occurs four times per year.

“The whole history of calendar-making is that of successive attempts to reconcile the irreconcilable, and the numberless systems of intercalated months, and the like, are thus of minor scientific interest.” – Joseph Needham

“I think that whole idea of the calendar starting in September is really eroding.” – Thomas Payne

“Maybe an asteroid will hit or something will happen to the magnetic polar fields, … Or maybe the guy who was making calendars ran out of paper. Who knows?” – George Noory

“I had to check my calendar. And I also had to check to make sure that hell didn’t freeze over.” – Michael Cohen

Also on this day:
“Send Us Work” – In 1936, the Jarrow March began.
PBS – In 1970, the Public Broadcasting Service began.