Thomas L. Petty, M.D.

Professor of Medicine, 
University of Colorado

Chairman, National Lung Health Education Program (NLHEP)

New Millennium - Now or Later?

January 2000
Second Wind
Lomita, California

  Dear Friends: 

  We are all happy to now be in the 21st century. But, the new millennium may still be a year away. How does this figure?

  A study of the many adjustments of historical calendars which were designed to keep months, seasons, and religious celebrations in phase each year suggests no evidence of the calendar year zero. "Anno Domini" (A.D.) marks the start of the Christian era. Thus, if the year of Christ's birth was year one, then the first millennium started in 1 A.D. and the third millennium starts in 2001. But biblical scholars suggest that there may have been a few years between 1 B.C. and 1 A.D. So, maybe the third millennium was in 1996 or 1997. It didn't seem so, however. Most people celebrated January 1, 2000 as the new millennium, no matter if they also used the ancient Egyptian, Hebrew, or Chinese calendars, whose origins are still debated.

  When we are born, (day one) we are zero years old. In one year we can have our first birthday. So, when we are born, we are considered to be in our first year of life; when we are 69, we are in our 70th year of life. Old folks don't like to look at it this way, but it's the truth.

  The Chinese probably have it right. They declare a child is one year old at the time of birth. This is pretty smart, since growth in utero takes 9 months, on average. This idea has profound biologic merit, since it recognizes that life begins at the time of conception.

  So will we again celebrate the new millennium in 2001? Will bigger parties happen? I doubt it. It's after all, an artificial reference point in time. Only God knows when time began.

  I will be in touch next month.

  Your friend,

  Thomas Petty, MD

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Published: Jan 31 2002