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Demystifying science |  Impossible calendar fix

Demystifying science | Impossible calendar fix

Every week our journalists answer scientific questions from readers.


Should we use the global calendar?

Robert Sarazin

There have been many proposals for calendar reform in recent centuries.

Some have aimed to change the way we count years so as not to mention Jesus Christ (such as the phrase “general era” replacing “after Jesus Christ”). But most of them were aimed at rationalizing the division of weeks and months to make the calendar simpler.

One of the proposals that had the greatest impact in the twentieth centuryH The century is Canadian. It's the work of accountant Moses Coatsworth, from British Columbia.

“Cotesworth is an important name in the history of calendar reform,” says Thomas Allen, a professor of English at the University of Ottawa who wrote a chapter on Cotesworth in the book. Material cultures in Canada, was published in 2015. The aim was to standardize the calendar to facilitate the preparation of financial reports by companies. The Cotsworth calendar was used internally by Kodak, whose founder was very active in calendar reform until the 1980s.

Image taken from the Yorkshire Philosophical Society website

Moses Cotesworth

Cotesworth's “International Fixed Calendar”, proposed in 1902, provided for 13 28-day months, with a new month called Sol at midsummer.

“At the end of the year, there was one day off, and two days in leap years, which weren't indexed, so we got to 365 or 366 days,” Mr. Allen says. Since it's 2024, it's a bit weird. This made monthly reporting easier for companies, but complicated quarterly reporting. So there was only Eastman Kodak as a large company that took this approach. The Cotesworth Calendar was also called the “Eastman Plan”. »

Easter Holiday

Another Coatsworth wish was to set a specific date for Easter, again to make business planning easier. “But this offended many religious people, who wanted Easter to continue to be determined in the traditional way.” The Council of Nicaea in 325 set Easter on the Sunday following the first full moon of spring.

Cotesworth was born in England in 1859, and initially worked on the railways before being hired in the early 1900s.H century to reorganize the civil administration of British Columbia. He died in Vancouver in 1943 and his archives are kept at the University of British Columbia. “It was a clause in his will, so I think he saw himself as a Canadian at the end of his life,” Allen said.

It is no coincidence that Cotesworth developed a passion for time measurement after working on the railways. “We and the railways had to coordinate timekeeping, plan departures and arrivals and avoid accidents,” says Mr. Allen. Time zones were also determined at a major conference held in Washington in 1884, where another Canadian, Sandford Fleming, chief engineer of the Canadian Pacific Railway, played an important role. »

Another whim of Coatsworth's was to prove that the pyramids were built by Egyptian pharaohs to measure the passage of time with their shadows.


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  • 1582
    In the same year, Pope Gregory XIII introduced the Gregorian calendar, which is still in use today

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