1752: The Year of the Missing 11 days

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“It is pleasant for an old man to be able to go to bed on September 2, and not have to get up until September 14.”

Benjamin Franklin celebrating the elimination of 11 days in the switchover in 1752 from the Julian Calendar to the Gregorian Calendar.

February 29, seems like an appropriate date to discuss the Gregorian Calendar.  The Julian Calendar, implemented by Julius Caesar, had been a striking advance for its day, placing the Roman calendar on a solar, rather than a lunar basis, and being only 11 minutes off in the length of the solar year, a strikingly accurate estimate for the time.  However, eleven minutes added up as the long centuries passed, and by the sixteenth century the calendar and the seasons were ten days out of whack, which was important to the Church in regard to the calculation of Easter.  The Gregorian Calendar implemented by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582 eliminated ten days from the calendar and instituted the February 29 leap year, ever four years, to compensate for the extra six hours between 365 days and the solar year which adds up each year.  Three leap years are skipped every four centuries in years which are divisible by 100 but not divisible by 400.  The Gregorian Calendar is off by 26 seconds each year as to the length of the solar year which results in an extra day every 3,323 years.

The introduction of the calendar initially produced confusion in Europe as Catholic States adopted it swiftly while most Protestant States did not.  Great Britain and her colonies did not adopt the Gregorian Calendar until 1752, the last country to do so in Europe except for Sweden in 1753 and the Russians who did not adopt the Gregorian Calendar until the Soviets mandated it in 1918.

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5 Comments

  1. St Teresa of Avila died on the night of the 4th and 15th September 1582, the day/s the Gregorian Calendar came into effect.

    In Scotland, from 1600 on, merchants and others tended to operate with both calendars andi t is common to find dates in letters or deeds expressed as OS (Old style or Julian) or NS (New Style or Gregorian) From 1 January 1600, the year had begun on 1 January; previously, it had begun on Lady Day (25 March) and continued to do so in England until 1752.

    A curious legacy of the reform is that the tax year, which previously ended on Lady Day now ends on 5 April – 25 March OS

  2. MPS, I recall that Thomas Jefferson’s gravestone at Monticello Virginia has his birth date listed as “OS”. (Born in 1743)
    Upon briefly researching it today, I see that the original stone was replaced in the 19th century. Naturally, that’s the one I saw.

  3. exNOAAman

    I recall reading somewhere that, after the Calendar Act, George Washington, who was born on 11 February 1731, celebrated his bisrthday on 22 February.

    I wonder if the practice was widespread and if people adjusted for 1800, which was a leap year in the Julian, but not in the Gregorian calendar.

  4. I had not known that the Saxons persisted with the Julian calendar for nearly 170 years after the Italians, Pope and Spain adopted the Gregorian calendar. In 1588, the year of the Armada, the difference in calendar dates was 10 day numbers according to Garrett Mattingly, who in his book, The Armada, attributes this to the Englishmen’s “sturdy conservatism.”

  5. T Shaw

    John Donne wrote his “A Nocturnal upon St Lucy’s Day, being the Shortest Day” in 1617. St Lucy’s Day is the 13th December. It is still celebrated as a winter festival in Sweden with a young girl wearing a crown of candles; thei obviously dates from the time when it fell on the Winter solstice.

    Likewise, there is a couplet, obviously dating from the 16th or 17th century,
    Barnaby bright, Barnaby bright
    The longest day and the shortest night

    The feast of St Barnabas is on 11 June

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