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Why 60 seconds in a minute?

60 seconds in one minute

60 seconds, 60 minutes, 24 hours ... today the cutting of time seems natural to us. But how did we get to this point? This is what we will see in this article through the following three points:

  1. The origin of time cutting
  2. So what's the connection with the hours?
  3. But then why 60 minutes and 60 seconds?


1. The origin of time cutting

To find the origin of thetime cutting, and therefore understand why there are 60 seconds in a minute, we must go back to Egyptian and Babylonian antiquity, to about 3,000 BC. Based on the observation of phases of the moon, which last about 29 and a half days, our distant ancestors established the months. Egyptian astronomers have also calculated, by observing the sky, that a year lasts 365 days. Around -2,800, the year is divided into three four-month seasons, and each month consists of three ten-day weeks, which will then be transformed into seven-day weeks, presumably to allow workers to rest more often on the last day of the week, and also for religious reasons.


2. So what is the connection with the hours?

In relation to this 12-month calendar of 30 days, Babylonians and Greeks divided the circle into 360 degrees (12 times 30).

At the same time, around -2,200, the Egyptians cut the day into 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of night, probably because the year was already divided into 12 months. This means that an hour of summer day lasted longer than an hour of winter day, conversely for the night. So, minutes and seconds also had a random duration. So we weren't yet on our traditional 60-second cutting that give one minute, and 60 minutes an hour!


3. But then why 60 minutes and 60 seconds?

Because this base 60 was used by Babylonian astronomers for their calculations, who had noticed that 60 is divisible by 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6, which is handy for making quarters, thirds...

Let's go back to this circle divided into 360 degrees (12 times 30). When the first clocks were designed, a clock dial being a circle, it is only natural that this ancient division was used in 12 to show the hours. This is how a day consists of 24 hours, every hour of 60 minutes, and every minute of 60 seconds

Ingenious, isn't it?!

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