22 October 2004
Happy birthday, world
In 1650, James Ussher (1581-1656) was serving as Archbishop of Armagh and Vice-Chancellor of Trinity College in Dublin. A busy man, but not so busy that he couldn't calculate the very moment of creation:
I have observed by the continued succession of these years, as they are delivered in holy writ, that the end of the great Nebuchadnezars and the beginning of Evilmerodachs (his sons) reign, fell out in the 3442 year of the world, but by collation of Chaldean history and the astronomical cannon, it fell out in the 186 year c Nabonasar, and, as by certain connexion, it must follow in the 562 year before the Christian account, and of the Julian Period, the 4152. and from thence I gathered the creation of the world did fall out upon the 710 year of the Julian Period, by placing its beginning in autumn: but for as much as the first day of the world began with the evening of the first day of the week, I have observed that the Sunday, which in the year 710 aforesaid came nearest the Autumnal Æquinox, by astronomical tables (notwithstanding the stay of the sun in the dayes of Joshua, and the going back of it in the dayes c Ezekiah) happened upon the 23 day of the Julian October; from thence concluded that from the evening preceding that first day of the Julian year, both the first day of the creation and the first motion of time are to be deduced.
The evening and the morning were the first day, says Genesis, so Ussher obligingly published his starting moment as 6 pm (sunset, more or less) on 22 October 4004 BC.
The Geological Society of London will celebrate the 6000th birthday of the universe today, out of respect for Ussher's efforts, even though they will tell you that the good churchman was "spectacularly wrong." The fact that 4004 BC was 6007 years ago will be quietly overlooked.
(Suggested by Fark)