Lifelong Dewey

Reading through every Dewey Decimal section.

Tag: calendars

529: Calendar by David Ewing Duncan

529.3: Duncan, David Ewing. Calendar: Humanity’s Epic Struggle to Determine a True and Accurate Year. New York: Avon, 1998. 241 pp. ISBN 0-380-97528-9.

529 is a curious section in the DDC. 520s are astronomy, but the last section in the division–529–is classed as chronology. This is because for many millennia, cultures have counted their days and nights by the sun and the stars. Long before electric wristwatches and atomic clocks, the hours of the day were tolled out by bell towers and sun sightings.

While Gould’s book (here) was superficial and condescending, David E. Duncan’s Calendar is vast and learned. You can tell just from the first chapter that the author consulted as many sources as is possible for this book. His goal is to track the evolution of the modern 12-month, 365-day (or 366) from its earliest form to the present. Along the way, he weaves a thread through Cro-Magnon bone carvers, Egyptian pharoahs, Indian mathematicians, and Catholic philosophers.

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901: Questioning the Millennium by Stephen Jay Gould

901: Gould, Stephen Jay. Questioning the Millennium: A Rationalist’s Guide to a Precisely Arbitrary Countdown. New York: Harmony, 1997. 179 pp. ISBN 0-609-60076-1.

History is huge. Everything that has happened before now is history. That’s why history gets 90% of the 900s (geography and travel gets the 910s). And, as an added bonus, they’ve edited out the racism. Every continent (almost) gets its own division–Europe gets the 940s, Asia gets the 950s, Africa gets the 960s, North America gets the 970s, and South America gets the 980s. The 990s are reserved for other parts of the world (and outer space, just in case, which is 999). But, when we talk about history as a whole or as a science, it gets classed all the way up at 901.

Stephen Jay Gould is best known for this NOMA theory–the Non-Overlapping Magisteria theory, that treats religion and science as two separate, mutually exclusive areas of study that can neither be pitted against each other nor combined to form a perfect whole. He was a brilliant scientist and award-winning theoretician, but this particular book was sub-par.

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