2024 – Demystifying science | The impossible reform of the calendar

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Should we use a universal calendar?

Robert Sarrazin

Many proposals for calendar reform have been made in recent centuries.

Some have sought to change the way we count years so that Jesus Christ is not mentioned (such as the phrase “common era” replacing “after Jesus Christ”). But most focused on rationalizing the division of weeks and months to simplify the calendar.

One of the proposals that had the most impact in the 20th centurye century is Canadian. It is the work of accountant Moses Cotsworth, from British Columbia.

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


Moses Cotsworth

Cotsworth’s “Fixed International Calendar”, proposed in 1902, provided for 13 months of 28 days, with a new month called “sol” in mid-summer.

“And at the end of the year there was one day off, two in leap years, which wasn’t in the catalogue, so we end up with 365 or 366 days,” says Mr Allen. Seen from 2024 it’s a bit weird. This made monthly reports easier for companies, but complicated quarterly reports. So there was only Eastman Kodak as a large company that chose this approach. The Cotsworth calendar was also called the ‘Eastman plan’. »


Cotsworth’s other wish was to have a fixed date for Easter, again to make business planning easier. “But it offended many religious people who wanted Easter to continue taking place in the traditional way. » The day of Easter was established by the Council of Nicea in 325 on the Sunday after the first full moon of spring.

Born in England in 1859, Cotsworth first worked for the railways before being hired in the early 20th century.e century to reorganize British Columbia’s civil government. 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 Canadian at the end of his life,” Mr. Allen said.

It is no coincidence that Cotsworth developed a fascination with measuring time after working on the railways. “It was on the railways that we had to harmonize timing, schedule departures and arrivals and prevent accidents,” says Mr Allen. The time zones were also established at a major conference in Washington in 1884, where another Canadian, Sandford Fleming, the chief engineer of the Canadian Pacific Railway, played an important role. »

Another of Cotsworth’s whims was to prove that the pyramids were built by the Egyptian pharaohs to measure the passage of time, with their shadows.

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  • 1582
    Year Pope Gregory XIII introduced the Gregorian calendar, which is still used today