Date coincidences: Happenstance or omen?

In the approximately 33 minutes Texas curriculum standards allow to teach the Declaration of Independence, I frequently slip in some biography to help students chunk the knowledge.  Of course, biography for the Declaration includes Thomas Jefferson.  If one talks of Jefferson, especially with limited time, one is obligated to relate the story of the friendship of Jefferson with John Adams, which descended into partisan squabbling by 1796, and outright enmity in the election of 1800.  Then one relates how they were essentially tricked into resuming their friendship, and their correspondence (which makes good DBQs for pre-AP and AP classes), and the always touching story of their deaths, both on July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.

Then a student asks about divine intervention in history.  I explain that history is so rich, one can find coincidences on almost every day of the calendar.  For two examples, consider the births of Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin, hours or minutes apart on February 12, 1809; the births of Mark Twain and Winston Churchill on the same date (November 30), and their love of whiskey and cigars.

These coincidences often seem eerie, or pre-ordained, and that is enough of a hook to get that chunk of history into the minds of students so they remember them, or to compare the lives or events involved, to sharpen their critical skills.  (Ha!  Then just try to dissuade high school students from the eerie or pre-ordained notion; coincidences?  Not to the non-critical-thinking high schooler . . . or too many voters.)

So I was interested to find, and it made me smile, that Mahatma Gandhi and Groucho Marx share a birth date, October 2 (Gandhi in 1869, Marx in 1890).  That date was also the birthday of the comic strip we know as “Peanuts,” in 1950.  (Does a piece of literature, especially a comic strip, have a “birthday?”)

BLAHS Award, copyright Mark Sackler at Millennium Conjectures

BLAHS Award, created by Mark Sackler at Millennium Conjectures

I learned that following a link to the blog of Mark Sackler, who shares the birthday — exactly with Charlie Brown, and the day with Marx and Gandhi.

Following the link over there, to the Millennium Conjectures™, I also learned Mr. Sackler awarded Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub a BLAHS Award, for having a funny name.

Hey, any attention is good attention, right?

I also found there some hope that, at least in some alternative universe, I might be getting a good night’s sleep.

I wonder whether there is any photograph of Groucho Marx and Mahatma Gandhi together.  (Neither of them seemed to be using their given first name, you’ll note . . .)


2 Responses to Date coincidences: Happenstance or omen?

  1. Ed Darrell says:

    Very high, I would think. Easier way to calculate, how many “famous” people are there; if you’ve got about 35 people in a room, the odds are almost inescapable that two of them share a birth date.

    Statistics, not pure coincidence.


  2. random8042 says:

    If there are 7 bilion people and only 365 days, there’ll be about 20,000 people with a birthday on any given date (apart from 29th february). Including dead people as well, what are the chances of one of them being famous?
    I don’t know.


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