Why wasn’t the year 1900 a leap year?

December 12, 2016 | Author: | Posted in History, Science

According to the Gregorian calendar, which was introduced by Pope Gregory in 1582 A.D. and which was adopted by Great Britain and the English colonies in 1752, every year whose number is divisible by four is a leap year, with the exception of those years whose numbers are divisible by 1oo and not by 400. Thus the years 1700, 1800 and 1900 were not leap years, while 1600 was and 2000 was. The Gregorian calendar was a modification of the Julian calendar, which was introduced by Julius Caesar in 46 B.C. Roman astronomers at that time fixed the solar year at 365 days and six hours. These six hours were allowed to accumulate and added to the calendar as a 366th day every four years. The Romans called this the bissextile—from bis (“twice”) and sextus (“sixth”)—year because it followed February 24, the sixth day before the calends of March, and consequently was counted as a second “sixth” day. Under the Gregorian system the extra, odd or intercalary day is added after February 28. But it was found that the addition of a whole day every fourth year is a few minutes too much to make the calendar year come out even. This was adjusted by omitting the extra day — February 29 — in every concluding year of the centuries except when the year’s number is divisible by 400. Leap year as the English name of the bissextile year antedates the Gregorian calendar several centuries and goes back at least to the thirteenth century. It is supposed to have been suggested by the fact that in leap years any fixed date after February leaps over a day of the week and falls on the next week day but one to that on which it fell the year before.

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