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Topic: Math Prefixes
Replies: 7   Last Post: Oct 25, 1995 5:14 PM

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Jerry Johnson

Posts: 4
Registered: 12/6/04
Re: Math Prefixes
Posted: Oct 25, 1995 1:54 AM
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First some useful articles on the history of calendars:
Gordon Moyer's "The Gregorian Calendar" SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN
(May 1982) plus Reader Response letter (August 1982)
Colin Wilson's (ed.) The Book of Time (Westbridge Books, 1980)
plus any Ency. under subjects such as "Calendar" or "Time Measurement"
plus if you can find it, look for Nichole Vick's "Getting a
Yearful" in ALDUS MAGAZINE (Nov/Dec 1992) which has a great historical
perspective on the development of calendars.

Second, a little information to whet your appetite for further research
(which would make a good topic for students at most levels). The Romans
used months based on lunar cycles (30 or 29 days in length), leading to a
calendar of 10 months (295 days). March was their first month, with
September, October, November and December their 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th
months respectively. January and February were added as the final two
months in 700 B.C. Eventaully, the calendard shifted from lunar
connections, and in 46 B.C. Julius Ceasar made important changes,
triggered by an initial "the last year of confusion." The changes
included adjustment to approximately 365 days, adjustment of month cycles
to fit the vernal equinox, and rearrangement of the months so January
became the first month (shifting the other months so that theur prefixes
did not match their order). Finally, in 1582, Pope Gregory XIII made the
final reform, setting the average calendar year to be 365.2425 days,
leading to the creation of leap years.

As to the Month names, January is named after Janus (god of beginnings),
February is derivative of Latin word for purification (a new year
custom), March was named for the god Mars, April is derived from a LAtin
word meaning "to open" as buds of a year, May perhaps was named for
either the goddess Maia or dedicated to old people ("maiores"), July and
August represent the efforts of Julius and Augustus Ceasar, and the
remaining fit a numerical prefix pattern.

Hope this helps....keep searching as there is so much left out
there...such as why the days are arranged in a week the way they are, how
days got there names, how 10 days were skipped in a calendar in 1582
(when October 5 was declared to be October 15), how the French made an
effort to change the calendar system in the early 1800's and failed, and
finally the use of modular arithmetic to determine days of a week for any
Gregorian date. Have fun exploring....

Jerry Johnson
Math department
Western Washington University

On Tue, 24 Oct 1995, Sam Evers wrote:

> Eileen,
> Thanks for ruining my day. Now I'm going to be thinking about
> "months" all day long. It has never occured to me that September,
> etc. were named with prefixes. The only explanation I can see is that
> these months were indeed seven through ten on some calendar at some
> time. However, if ANYONE has an explanation that they are certain of,
> please post it for Eileen's students and for my sanity.
> On 10/23 Eileen was talking about prefixes:

> >One of the students said - The months of the year - September,
> >October, November, December, and began saying that is the same as the
> >months. September is the 7th month. Suddenly several of the students
> >said - no its not its the ninth month. The next question was - Why
> >are the prefixes used differently with the months? Or, has there
> >ever been a time when September was the 7th month of the year? Or,
> >when were the months named, and were they intentionally named using
> >these pre-fixes?


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