Calendar: Humanity's Epic Struggle to Determine a True and Accurate Year

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9780380975280: Calendar: Humanity's Epic Struggle to Determine a True and Accurate Year

The adventure spans the world from Stonehenge to astronomically aligned pyramids at Giza, from Mayan observatories at Chichen Itza to the atomic clock in Washington, the world's official timekeeper since the 1960s. We visit cultures from Vedic India and Cleopatra's Egypt to Byzantium and the Elizabethan court; and meet an impressive cast of historic personages from Julius Caesar to Omar Khayyam, and giants of science from Galileo and Copernicus to Stephen Hawking. Our present calendar system predates the invention of the telescope, the mechanical clock, and the concept ol zero and its development is one of the great untold stories of science and history. How did Pope Gregory set right a calendar which was in error by at least ten lull days? What did time mean to a farmer on the Rhine in 800 A.D.? What was daily life like in the Middle Ages, when the general population reckoned births and marriages by seasons, wars, kings'' reigns, and saints' days? In short, how did the world

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Review:

In his latest book, David Ewing Duncan traces the development of our modern-day calendar and describes how people's experiences are shaped by their conception of time. Duncan postulates that all this concern with time started when a Cro-Magnon man decided to mark off the days of the lunar cycle on an eagle bone. After recounting the slow evolution of the calendar through the centuries, the author laments how time oriented our society has become: "There are moments when I am hopelessly late, or cannot possibly fit anything else into my schedule, when I sigh and wish that Cro-Magnon man 13,000 years ago in the Dordogne Valley had set aside his eagle bone and gone to bed."

The book is organized in chronological order and focuses mainly on the centuries leading up to the adoption of the Gregorian calendar (our modern calendar) by the Catholic Church in 1582. Along the way, Duncan describes the ancient calendars of many cultures all over the globe, from India to Egypt to the Mayan empire. During the Middle Ages, Christian churches discouraged scientific inquiry on the theory that it was wrong to question the nature of God's creation. This severely hampered the refinement of the calendar and the advancement of many academic pursuits. By the 16th century, Europe's calendars were 11 days out of sync with the solar year, which meant Easter was being celebrated on the wrong day. An infusion of knowledge from India and the Middle East helped Europeans get back on track. Duncan profiles the many mathematicians, philosophers, and monks who made organizing time their life's work. This book honors the efforts of those scholars and examines the way politics and religion influenced societal perceptions of time through the ages. --Jill Marquis

About the Author:

David Ewing Duncan is the author of five books, including the international bestseller Calendar, and writes for Wired, Discover, and The Atlantic Monthly. He is a freelance producer and correspondent for ABC's Nightline, and a commentator on NPR's Morning Edition. He also writes the popular "Biotech and Creativity" column for the San Francisco Chronicle. In 2003, he won the Magazine Journalism Award from the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He lives in San Francisco, California.

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