This Day in Tech, Wired (September 21, 2009)
"1792: It's 1 Vendémiaire of An I in the French Revolutionary Calendar, the first day of the first month of the first year of the First Republic of France. It’s the day the National Convention proclaimed France a republic, but no one would know about the new system of marking time for another year, when the calendar was imposed retroactively.
"When people who study the French Revolution read about the Uprising of Vendémiaire or the Insurrection of 12 Germinal An III, most simply scratch their heads and wonder, Vendémiaire? Germinal? An III? What's that all about?
"Few ever bother to learn what these dates mean. In fact, they are part of the French Republican Calendar, aka Revolutionary Calendar, which replaced the Gregorian Calendar in France from 1793 to 1805...."
We got quite a bit out of the French Revolution: the metric system of measurement; demonstrations that the guillotine was useful for whacking off heads in wholesale lots; and a career-changing opportunity for a Corsican whose name provided psychologists with the catchy name, "Napoleon complex."
Ah, those were heady years.
It must have seemed such a good idea at the time. All the revolutionaries did was:
- Overthrow the king
- Happened all the time in Europe's feudal period
- Break into churches
- Hardly a new idea - this was the late 1700s
- Smash religious statues
- It'd worked so well for the Lord Protector, about a century before
- Put a nattily-dressed serious thinker who said terror was a virtue necessary to maintaining the state in charge of the whole blowout
Anyway, the Wired article gives chapter and verse of a new-and-improved calendar (now without those horrid religious holidays!). That lasted a lot longer than many enemies of the state did.
Eventually, France pulled itself back together - with help from that Corsican I mentioned - and went back to using that boring old Gregorian calendar.
One of the features that appealed to me in the 'revolutionary' calendar was putting the start of the year at a logical point in the annual cycle: at the autumnal equinox.
That's a nifty feature. Although if it had caught on, the new calendar wouldn't have stayed in line with Earth's equinoxes. Precession and all that, you know.
The calendar had 12 months of 30 days each. I know: That left them five days short. The slack was taken up by five festivals: one each for Virtue, Genius, Labor, Opinion and Rewards. Groovy.
You Think Daylight Saving Time is Bad? Try Metric DaysFinally:
"...Revolutionaries even attempted a metric day of 10 hours of 100 minutes each of 100 seconds each. With 100,000 seconds per day, this metric second was about 14 percent shorter than the one we know, of which 86,400 make a complete day...."