Gauß and Beyond: The Making of Easter Algorithms
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- Bien, R. Arch. Hist. Exact Sci. (2004) 58: 439. doi:10.1007/s00407-004-0078-5
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It is amazing to see how many webpages are devoted to the art of finding the date of Easter Sunday. Just for illustration, the reader may search for terms such as Gregorian calendar, date of Easter, or Easter algorithm. Sophisticated essays as well as less enlightening contributions are presented, and many a doubt is expressed about the reliability of some results obtained with some Easter algorithms. In short, there is still a great interest in those problems. Gregorian Easter algorithms exist for two centuries (or more?), but most of their history is rather obscure. Some reasons may be that some important sources are written in Latin or in the German of Goethe’s time, or they are difficult to discover. Without being complete, the following paper is intended to shed light on how those techniques emerged and evolved.1 Like a microcosm, the history of Easter algorithms resembles the history of any science: it is a story of trials, errors, and successes, and, last but not least, a story of offended pride.