Another Eclipse Over The British Isles In 1724

Much of southern England had waited from 1140 until 1715 for an opportunity to witness a total solar eclipse, about twice the average waiting time for random locations in the Northern Hemisphere. The inhabitants did not need to wait much longer, though, for the next show. On May 11, 1724 the shadow of totality swept diagonally across the southern halves of Ireland and Wales before proceeding in a southeasterly direction across most of England below Birmingham, as in Figure 7-2. Only Cornwall and Kent (the southwestern and southeastern tips of England) missed out beyond the southern limit, the northern edge of totality just missing Oxford and London, which still awaits a repeat of the Capital Eclipse of1715.

Before leaving these eighteenth-century eclipses, a peculiarity should be mentioned. When the path of the 1724 shadow left Britain and crossed the English Channel into France, the date suddenly jumped from May 11 to May 22. Similarly the great eclipse of April 22, 1715, was seen on that date in Britain, but elsewhere it was May 3rd already.

What am I getting at? My point is that in Halley's day Britain was still using the Julian calendar, the 11-day jump necessary to fall in line with the Gregorian calendar not being made until 1752. The same is true for the American Colonies ruled by Britain in those days. Although history books may tell you that George Washington was born on February 22, 1732, in fact he was born on February 11, 1731 (because NewYear for the British was not until March 25). Great Britain and Scandinavia were the last places in Western Europe to reform their domestic calendars, whereas in Eastern Europe it took some countries until the 1920s to make the change, by which time the discrepancy had grown to 13 days.

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