February 29th In History

Image result for leap year dayFebruary 29, also known as the leap day of the Gregorian calendar, is a date that occurs in most years that are divisible by 4, such as 2008, 2012, 2016, 2020, and 2024. Years that are divisible by 100, but not by 400, do not contain a leap day. Thus, 1700, 1800, and 1900 did not contain a leap day, 2100, 2200, and 2300 will not contain a leap day, while 1600 and 2000 did, and 2400 will. Years containing a leap day are called leap years. February 29 is the 60th day of the Gregorian calendar in such a year, with 306 days remaining until the end of the year. In the Chinese calendar, this day will only occur in years of the monkey, dragon, and rat.

Although most modern calendar years have 365 days, a complete revolution around the Sun (one solar year) takes approximately 365 days and 6 hours. An extra 24 hours thus accumulates every four years, requiring that an extra calendar day be added to align the calendar with the Sun’s apparent position. Without the added day, in future years the seasons would occur later in the calendar, eventually leading to confusion about when to undertake activities dependent on weather, ecology, or hours of daylight.

A solar year is actually slightly shorter than 365 days and 6 hours (365.25 days). More precisely, as derived from the Alfonsine tables, the Earth completes its orbit around the Sun in 365 days, 5 hours, 49 minutes, and 16 seconds (365.2425 days). The currently accepted figure is 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, 45 seconds. Thus adding a calendar day every four years is an excess of around 44 minutes each time, or about 3 days every 400 years. To compensate for this, three days are removed every 400 years. The Gregorian calendar reform implements this adjustment by making an exception to the general rule that there is a leap year every four years. Instead, a year divisible by 100 is not a leap year unless that year was also exactly divisible by 400. This means that the years 1600, 2000, and 2400 are leap years, while the years 1700, 1800, 1900, 2100, 2200, 2300, and 2500 are not leap years.

Modern (Gregorian) calendar

The Gregorian calendar repeats itself every 400 years, which is exactly 20,871 weeks including 97 leap days. Over this period, February 29 falls on Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday 13 times each; 14 times each on Friday and Saturday; and 15 times each on Monday and Wednesday. The order of the leap days is: Thursday, Tuesday, Sunday, Friday, Wednesday, Monday, and Saturday.

Early Roman calendar (of Numa Pompilius)

Adding a leap day (after 23 February) shifts the commemorations in the 1962 Roman Missal.

The calendar of the Roman king Numa Pompilius had only 355 days (even though it was not a lunar calendar) which meant that it would quickly become unsynchronized with the solar year. An earlier Roman solution to this problem was to lengthen the calendar periodically by adding extra days to February, the last month of the year. February consisted of two parts, each with an odd number of days. The first part ended with the Terminalia on the 23rd, which was considered the end of the religious year, and the five remaining days formed the second part. To keep the calendar year roughly aligned with the solar year, a leap month, called Mensis Intercalaris (“intercalary month”), was added from time to time between these two parts of February. The (usual) second part of February was incorporated in the intercalary month as its last five days, with no change either in their dates or the festivals observed on them. This followed naturally, because the days after the Ides (13th) of February (in an ordinary year) or the Ides of Intercalaris (in an intercalary year) both counted down to the Kalends of March (i.e. they were known as “the nth day before the Kalends of March”). The Nones (5th) and Ides of Intercalaris occupied their normal positions.

The third-century writer Censorinus says:

When it was thought necessary to add (every two years) an intercalary month of 22 or 23 days, so that the civil year should correspond to the natural (solar) year, this intercalation was in preference made in February, between Terminalia [23rd] and Regifugium [24th].

Later Roman calendar (Julian)

The leap day was introduced in Rome as part of the Julian reform in the 1st century BC. As before, the intercalation was made after February 23. The day following the Terminalia (February 23) was doubled, forming the “bis sextum“—literally ‘twice sixth’, since February 24 was ‘the sixth day before the Kalends of March’ using Roman inclusive counting (March 1 was the Kalends of March and was also the first day of the calendar year). Although there were exceptions, the first day of the bis sextum (February 24) was usually regarded as the intercalated or “bissextile” day since the 3rd century AD.[2] February 29 came to be regarded as the leap day when the Roman system of numbering days was replaced by sequential numbering in the late Middle Ages.

Leap second

The concepts of the leap year and leap day are distinct from the leap second, which results from changes in the Earth’s rotational speed. But the basic problem is the same: the quotient of the larger measure of time by the smaller is a non-integer. There is no way to perfectly fit a whole number of days/months into a year, nor is there a way to perfectly fit a whole number of seconds into a day. Leap seconds and leap years are used to correct the resulting drift.



In 46, B.C., the first Leap Year day happened when the Romans added an extra day to make their calendars agree with the earth’s orbital period.

In 642, St. Oswald, bringer of Christianity to northeastern England, is killed in battle.

In 1288, this was the first year in Scotland where the law took effect where it became a crime for a man to refuse to marry a woman who made a proposal to him. If he refused, he was required to pay a fine.

In 1504,  Christopher Columbus uses his knowledge of a lunar eclipse that night to convince Native Americans to provide him with supplies.

In 1582, Leap Year Day is now observed every four years (except those years that are divisible by 100 and NOT by 400, i.e., 1700, 1800, 1900, 2100, etc.) since 1582 to keep the calendar in sync with the sun.

In 1644,  Abel Tasman‘s second Pacific voyage began.

In 1692, Sarah Good & Tituba, an Indian servant, was accused of witchcraft in Salem.

In 1704,  Queen Anne’s War: French forces and Native Americans stage a raid on Deerfield, Massachusetts, killing 56 villagers and taking more than 100 captive. They were trying to retrieve their church bell that had been shipped from France. The bell was to hang in the Canadian Indian’s village church. Neither the raiders nor the residents of Deerfield were aware that the bell had been stolen from the ship. The Deerfield folks had purchased the bell from a privateer, unaware that it belonged to the Indian congregation.

In 1712,  February 29 is followed by February 30 in Sweden, in a move to abolish the Swedish calendar for a return to the Old style.

In 1720,  Ulrika Eleonora, Queen of Sweden abdicates in favour of her husband, who becomes King Frederick I on 24 March.

In 1752,  King Alaungpaya founds Konbaung Dynasty, the last dynasty of Burmese monarchy.

In 1768,  Polish nobles formed Bar Confederation.

In 1796,  The Jay Treaty between the United States and Great Britain comes into force, facilitating ten years of peaceful trade between the two nations.

In 1864,  American Civil War: Kilpatrick–Dahlgren Raid fails – plans to free 15,000 Union soldiers being held near Richmond, Virginia are thwarted.

In 1868, Benjamin Disraeli took over as British prime minister from Lord Derby.

In 1880, Gotthard railway tunnel between Switzerland & Italy completed.

In 1892,  St. Petersburg, Florida is incorporated.

In 1892, the United States and Britain agreed to submit to arbitration their dispute over seal-hunting rights in the Bering Sea. (A commission later ruled in favor of Britain.).

In 1904, in Washington, DC, a seven-man commission was created to hasten the construction of the Panama Canal. Work began May 4th. It’s always hard to get something going by committee; so we guess that’s why it took seven men two months to get the work going.

In 1908, Heike Onnes, a scientist from Leyden, the Netherlands, announces he has succeeded in liquefying helium.

upper body of slender man in old-fashioned suit, vest and tie with short hair and large moustacheIn 1908,  Pat Garrett, American sheriff (b. 1850) was shot and killed. He was an American Old West lawman, bartender and customs agent who became renowned for killing Billy the Kid. He was also the sheriff of Lincoln County, New Mexico as well as Doña Ana County, New Mexico. He coauthored a book about Billy the Kid which, for a generation after the Kid’s death, was deemed authoritative; however, historians have since found many embellishments and inconsistencies with other accounts of the outlaw’s life. Pat Garrett also became one of President Theodore Roosevelt‘s three “White House Gunfighters” (Bat Masterson and Ben Daniels were the others) when Roosevelt appointed him Collector of Customs in El Paso. Garrett was murdered under unclear circumstances.

In 1912,  The Piedra Movediza (Moving Stone) of Tandil falls and breaks.

In 1916,  Tokelau is annexed by the United Kingdom.

In 1916,  Child labor: In South Carolina, the minimum working age for factory, mill, and mine workers is raised from twelve to fourteen years old.

In 1916, a decision helped draw the United States into World War I. That’s when German U-boat commanders were ordered to attack merchant shipping in the Atlantic Ocean without warning. The policy killed thousands of people.

In 1920,  Czechoslovak National assembly adopted the Constitution.

In 1936,  Baby Snooks, played by Fanny Brice, debuts on the radio program The Ziegfeld Follies of the Air.

In 1936,  February 26 Incident in Tokyo ends.

In 1936, FDR signs second neutrality act.

In 1940,  For her role as Mammy in Gone with the Wind, Hattie McDaniel becomes the first African American to win an Academy Award.

In 1940,  Finland initiates Winter War peace negotiations.

In 1940,  In a ceremony held in Berkeley, California, because of the war, physicist Ernest Lawrence receives the 1939 Nobel Prize in Physics from Sweden’s Consul General in San Francisco.

In 1944,  World War II: The Admiralty Islands are invaded in Operation Brewer led by American General Douglas MacArthur.

In 1948, A Cairo to Haifa train was bombed by the underground Jewish Stern Gang, killing 35 British troops

In 1952,  The island of Heligoland is restored to German authority.

In 1952, President Truman signs a bill designating September 17 as Annual Citizenship Day.

In 1956, in a nationally broadcast speech, President Eisenhower announced he would seek a second term.

In 1956, almost nine years after becoming an independent nation, Pakistan declared itself an Islamic republic.

In 1960,  The 5.7 Mw Agadir earthquake shakes coastal Morocco with a maximum perceived intensity of X (Extreme), destroying Agadir, and leaving 12,000 dead and another 12,000 injured.

In 1964,  In Sydney, Australian swimmer Dawn Fraser sets a new world record in the 100-meter freestyle swimming competition (58.9 seconds).

In 1968, President Johnson’s National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders (also known as the Kerner Commission) warned that racism was causing America to move “toward two societies, one black, one white — separate and unequal.”

In 1968, Defense Secretary Robert McNamara resigns after concluding that the U.S. cannot win the Vietnam War.

In 1968, the discovery of the first pulsar, a star which emits regular radio waves, was announced by Dr. Jocelyn Bell Burnell at Cambridge, England.

In 1972,  Vietnam War: Vietnamization – South Korea withdraws 11,000 of its 48,000 troops from Vietnam.

In 1980,  Gordie Howe of the then Hartford Whalers makes NHL history as he scores his 800th goal.

In 1980, Michael Bracey ends 59 h 55 m trapped in an elevator, England.

In 1988,  South African archbishop Desmond Tutu is arrested along with 100 clergymen during a five-day anti-apartheid demonstration in Cape Town.

In 1988,  Svend Robinson becomes the first member of the Canadian House of Commons to come out as gay.

In 1988, South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu and other religious leaders were arrested while kneeling near Parliament with a petition against government bans on anti-apartheid groups. (All were freed hours later.)

In 1992,  First day of Bosnia and Herzegovina independence referendum. Muslims and Croats in Bosnia-Herzegovina began casting ballots in an independence referendum; Serbs boycotted the vote, calling it illegal.

In 1996,  Faucett Flight 251 crashes in the Andes, all 123 passengers and crew died.

In 1996, Daniel Green was convicted in Lumberton, North Carolina, of murdering James R. Jordan, the father of basketball star Michael Jordan, during a 1993 roadside holdup. (Green was sentenced to life in prison; an accomplice who had testified against him, Larry Demery, is also serving a life sentence.)

In 2000,  Second Chechen War: 84 Russian paratroopers are killed in a rebel attack on a guard post near Ulus Kert.

In 2004,Jean-Bertrand Aristide is removed as President of Haiti following a coup.

In 2008,  The United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence decides to withdraw Prince Harry from a tour of Afghanistan “immediately” after a leak led to his deployment being reported by foreign media.

In 2008,  Misha Defonseca admits to fabricating her memoir, Misha: A Mémoire of the Holocaust Years, in which she claimed to have lived with a pack of wolves in the woods during the Holocaust.

In 2008,  The Jackson Tennessee City Council received from Al Laffoon, who warned us the year before, that we could be running deficit budget last year, again gave us a rather shaky report this  afternoon. According to Mr. Laffoon, the city will entertain a 3.1 million dollar deficit. Unlike last year where the council approved a 2.1 million deficit and we were lucky enough to cover it. That luck doesn’t appear to be on the horizon this year.

The question is how should the city council react to the poor financial management practices of the past administration? Or how should the council react to its own poor management decisions by approving the actions of the past administration? Should the council assemble itself and take a keener interest in the financial picture of the city? Should the council members individually offer suggestions to the group and the current Mayor or should it be collective approval? Of course none of this happened!

In 2012,  Tokyo Skytree construction completed. Now it is the tallest tower in the world, 634 meters high, and second tallest (man-made) structure on Earth, next to Burj Khalifa.

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