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The way we were: Leap years

Extracts from diaries and writings on 29th February, chosen by Ian Irvine

By Ian Irvine   March 2012

Even in classical times it was known that the solar year was around six hours longer than the 365-day calendar year. On his astronomers’ advice Julius Caesar decreed that 24th February would be counted twice every four years. February 29th came to be regarded as the leap day when the Roman system was replaced by sequential numbering in the late Middle Ages.

On his fourth voyage to the new world, Christopher Columbus was stranded in Jamaica. Though initially friendly, the people of the island had turned against his crew. From an almanac Columbus noticed a lunar eclipse would occur…

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