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The Calendar

David Ewing Duncan

Average Review Rating Average Rating 7/10 (1 Review)
Book Details

Publisher : Fourth Estate

Published : 1998

Copyright : David Ewing Duncan 1998

ISBN-10 : PB 1-85702-979-8
ISBN-13 : PB 978-1-85702-979-6

Publisher's Write-Up

When Mao Zedong declared on 1 October 1949 China would follow the Gregorian calendar, the entire world agreed what the date was for the very first time. Charting developments in science, religion, superstition and politics across the ages from Ancient Egypt to the flowering of Indian and Islamic civilisations and beyond, this is the first complete history of the attempts to reconcile the heavens with the clock, and of the universal establishment of the calendar.

The crucible for the development of astronomy and mathematics, the calendar has always been the measure of how the world is understood and evaluated, and an object of fascination for the greatest scholars. It has existed as long as time itself, but the story of its reckoning is a tale of human will, vanity, experimentation and endeavour: mankind's history of time.

'A captivating account of the history of man's attempt to compute time.'


'This fine book will prove to all readers that the establishment of a consistent and useful calendar is one of humanity's greatest achievements and the embodiment of our cultural history and progress.'

Stephen Jay Gould

'Deserves to be read by a wide audience.'

The Times
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Reader Reviews

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Review by Chrissi (011001) Rating (7/10)

Review by Chrissi
Rating 7/10
This is a subject that I have managed not to really think about all my life, just taking for granted the way the years roll by. This is a book, which explains quite why we live with the years in their present form. It opens with an explanation of just how early man started to consider the measurement of time, with a man carving a bone with what appeared to be a number of days.

It's amazing to think that even before man was able to calculate the precise length of the year, he knew that the Julian calendar length of three hundred and sixty five and a quarter days was incorrect. There were some very early calls to remedy this but it took a long time before every one could agree to a date.

The thing that I could not understand was that Mr Duncan went through the development of the maths that allowed the scientists to calculate the length of a day to a great degree of accuracy and he spoke about the arbitrary placing of the meridians but he made no reference to the circumstances that placed the meridian in Greenwich.

The other thing which annoyed me was the way that he went from measuring with water clocks to the atomic clock, no mention was made about the way that people measured time, it's just ignored, but it leaves a gap in the story, reference should have been made to the way that people measured time between these two extremes. I suppose I expected a reference to the business of the development of modern chronometers and John Harrison, which led to the Meridian being placed at Greenwich. Silly me.

The book is really well written but unfortunately the subject is a bit dry in places, requiring as it does that a large amount of the story be devoted to the development of religion and the relationship with science.

I think I would enjoy reading more about the development of the science of the dark ages, so when I next see something which is about that, I'll bore you with it too...
Chrissi (1st October 2001)

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