An inbred being bred twice in the same year. Disregarding any absurd superstition, it sounds like a catch from a spine-chiller sci-fi novel, right? No. Washington tells us why.
George Washington was born on February 22, 1732. At least, that’s what we’re told. However, his family Bible says he was born on February 11, 1731.
At the time, England and its colonies were following the Julian calendar , instituted in 46 B.C. by the eponymous Julius Caesar. By that calendar, Washington was born on Feb. 11, 1731. But in 1752, England switched to the Gregorian calendar, which is still in use today, and that threw everything off.
Why the switch, you ask? Because the Julian calendar was flawed and off-base, dawdling by 11 minutes annually. According to NASA, the Earth takes about 365.2422 days to go around the sun, or about 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, and 46 seconds. Leap years were installed in the Julian Calendars to fix the issue, however it still ran out of 11 minutes 14 seconds annually.
By the 1500s, these minutes had piled up, and the vernal equinox was arriving about 12 days earlier on the calendar than it used to. The Roman Catholic Church decided that this was unacceptable because Easter was becoming unhitched from its association with spring.
In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII put the Catholic world onto a new calendar, which bears his name.
The Gregorian calendar has a leap year every four years except there is no leap year in years that are multiples of 100, unless that year is also a multiple of 400. This math, which was impressively done before the invention of satellites and computers, makes an average year 365.2425 days long, which is just 26 seconds off of NASA’s calculation.
Thus, the church that condemned Galileo in 1633 for saying that the Earth revolves around the sun had, more than 50 years earlier, produced a fairly precise measurement of the length of a solar year.
England was Protestant and took a little longer to adopt the Pope’s calendar. It did so in two steps. First, it moved New Year’s Day from March 25 to January 1, which advanced the calendar one year. Second, it cut 11 days out of the year to sync up with countries already on the Gregorian calendar. Thus, Wednesday, Sept. 2, 1752, was followed almost immediately by Thursday, Sept. 14, 1752, according to the National Archives in the U.K.
Washington’s birthday was retroactively bumped up to 1732 to stay consistent with his age, unfortunately endowing him with two birthdays! So, when would you prefer greeting Washington?!
(Read more @ Live Science)