Experts say the millennium begins in 2001 not in 2000, when most people will actually be celebrating it. 2001 is the correct date thanks to the mathematical shortcomings of western culture in the first millennium ADby Dick Teresi / November 20, 1997 / Leave a comment
When does the new millennium begin-in 2000 or in 2001? The people (and their governments) have voted with their chequebooks for the former. Travel bookings are brisk for the end of 1999. Favourite destinations include the pyramids, the Taj Mahal, the Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania and Machu Picchu in Peru. Civic leaders in Nazareth are building 2,000 new hotel rooms in anticipation of the crush. Islands located a hair’s breadth west of the International Date Line are vying to be the first to usher in the millennium-and for the dollars accompanying it-despite the fact that it will be hurricane season.
Yet the idea that centuries begin in years ending in 01, not 00, has been agreed by historians, newspaper editors, calendarists and other arbiters of culture for at least three centuries. This opinion is not dispassionately held. The Times wrote on 26th December 1799: “The present century will not terminate till 1st January 1801… We shall not pursue this question further… It is a silly, childish discussion and only exposes the want of brains of those who maintain a contrary opinion to that we have stated.” Those afflicted with a “want of brains” included Goethe, Schiller and Victor Hugo, all of whom made the error of defending 1800 as the beginning of the 19th century. In the US the New York Times, the Washington Post, Scientific American and the Nation put editorial weight behind 1901 as the first year of the 20th century. The New York Times has weighed in for 2001 to start the 21st century. I have not found one US publication which has broken ranks, although Science News went astray in 1986 when it stated in an obituary that Admiral Hyman Rickover, whose birthday was 27th January 1900, had been born in the first year of the century.
The Old Royal Observatory in Greenwich, London, the internationally recognised authority on timekeeping and self-proclaimed last word on calendrics, proclaims 1st January 2001 as the start of the new era. (Timekeeping is defined as the “measurement of fractions of a day,” whereas calendrics is “the reckoning of time over extended periods.”) The US has no official calendar and no legally prescribed method for numbering years. In general, though, the US uses the Gregorian calendar, established by an Act of Parliament in 1751 as the official calendar of England. This Act also applied to the American colonies, but that obligation…