From Mr Brian Brindley
Sir, Mr John Matthews (Letters, Jan. 21) has fun with me and my computer; but, to speak plainly, he is wrong about Leap Years, and I am right.
There is no point in asserting, as Mr Matthews does, that 1800 and 1900 "should have been leap years". They weren't. For some reason he is still sticking to the Julian Kalendar, established in 54 B.C., whereas the Gregorian was introduced by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582, and, even in protestant England, in 1751.
The Act of Parliament of George Il is quite explicit: 'The several years of our Lord 1800, 1900, 2100, 2200. 2300, or any other hundredth years which shall happen in time to come, except only every fourth hundredth year whereof the year 2000 shall be the first, shall not be deemed Bissextile or Leap-years, but common years."
I did not say that "the first December 25th [was] the first anniversary of Our Lord's birth" — an obviously nonsensical statement. To be specific, our Lord was deemed to have been born at midnight on 24/25 December, B.C.1 (so-called); chronological centuries and millennia are always reckoned from the beginning of the astronomical year, 1 January.
The confusion about the beginning of the new millennium has nothing whatever to do with the absence of zero from ancient methods of counting, but from ineluctable laws of mathematics: Mr Matthews entered his second year on his first birthday, after he had lived for one year; if he lives to be 100 (as I hope he may) he will enter his second century on his 100th birthday, at the end of the 100th year of his life. And so on.
Yours faithfully BRIAN BRINDLEY Brighton