Steve Cotler

Steve Cotler

Darwin and Lincoln: 200 Years Today (or are they?)

Born 200 years ago, February 12, 1809: Charles Darwin, who changed the way we think about a human’s place in the bios, and Abraham Lincoln, who changed the way we think about a human’s place in society.

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But perhaps these two Great Men were not born on the same day. Darwin’s birth was in a time zone five hours later than Lincoln’s. If “date of birth” is defined by calendar, then the two men were born on the same calendar day. But if Baby Abe was born later than 7 p.m. in that little log cabin near what is now Hodgenville, Kentucky, then it was already February 13 where Baby Darwin lay in Shrewsbury, England. Similarly, if Infant Charles took Breath One earlier than 5 a.m., then it was still February 11 in Kentucky. Accordingly, to be safe, I am posting this a day early.

8 Comments

  1. Abi says:

    I think my brain just exploded a little.

  2. Jen says:

    Definitely hard to know. Even more so since international time zones weren’t standardized until the late 1800s. Hmm, maybe a topic for a future post…? Thanks, Steve, for the informative and inspiring updates!

  3. Andy N says:

    They were born on the same day. What date it is (and indeed what hour it is) is locally-determined. Which also interestingly means that there are people who were born at the same moment, but not on the same day.

  4. lailani says:

    I can barely keep track of what date I was born in 1 time zone! Happy birthday, Abe & Charles.

  5. Steve says:

    Andy N–
    They were not necessarily born on the same DAY. A DAY is defined as one full revolution of the Earth.

    Assume Darwin was born at the stroke of midnight (Shrewsbury time) on 2/12. And assume that Lincoln’s birth took place more than 24 hours later, but less than 29 hours later. Abe’s arrival would not have occurred during the same Earth revolution; he would clearly be one DAY younger. But it would still be February 12 in Kentucky.

    At the other extreme, if Darwin was born at one moment before 5:00 a.m. (Shrewsbury time) on 2/12, and Lincoln’s birth took place 24 hours and one moment later. Abe’s arrival would also not have occurred during the same Earth revolution; he would clearly be one DAY younger. But similarly, it would still be February 12 in Kentucky.

  6. Andy N says:

    Steve,
    Comment 1. That is only one of the definitions of “day”.
    Comment 2. Change “day” to “date”.
    Comment 3. If Darwin hadn’t ever been born. It would still be February 12 in
    Kentucky.
    Comment 4. The interesting thing to me is that two people can be born at the
    exact same moment and yet not have the same birthday.

  7. Steve says:

    Andy,
    The point of my post is that they were born on the same DATE, but not necessarily on the same DAY. That moots Comment 2.

    Re Comment 1, what definition of DAY would change my analysis?

    The intent of Comment 3 is opaque to me. What you say is surely true, but of what relevance to the point of my post?

    I agree with Comment 4.

  8. Andy N says:

    def if day would be Day of the Week, as in Monday or Tuesday.

    You got the intent of Comment 3, which was to be of no relevance whatever. Whimsy is a good on its own. I know that is something someone who blogs about whether D and L were born on the same day can appreciate.

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