Annus mirabilis

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Annus mirabilis is a Latin phrase that means "wonderful year", "miraculous year" or "amazing year". This term was originally used to refer to the year 1666 (see below), and today is used to refer to several years during which events of major importance are remembered. Prior to this, however, Thomas Dekker used the phrase mirabilis annus in his 1603 pamphlet The Wonderful Year, "Wherein is shewed the picture of London lying sick of the plague."[1]

1492 – Catholic Monarchs

The Catholic Monarchs (Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon) built in 1492 the most powerful monarchy in the Western World by the conquest of Granada (January 2) and (though this wonder began to manifest only the upon the return of Columbus the next year) discovery of America (October 12). On March 31 they expelled the Jews from Spain. 1492 is also the year of construction of the first grammar of a modern language: Gramática de la lengua castellana; the author, Antonio de Nebrija (a prominent counselor of the Monarchs) said in it, comparing Spanish with Latin: siempre la lengua fue compañera del imperio ("the language was always the companion of empire").[2]

In the history of the Hispanic monarchy there were arguably other[which?] anni mirabiles. John H. Elliott proposes 1625, in the middle of the Thirty Years War.[3]

1543 – The year of science

The beginning of the Scientific Revolution[4] when

1666 – The year of wonders

John Dryden's poem

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the first known written usage of the Latin phrase "Annus Mirabilis" is as the title of a poem composed by English poet John Dryden about the events of 1666. The phrase "annus mirabilis" translates as "wonderful year" or "year of miracles". In fact, the year was beset by great calamity for England (including the Great Fire of London), but Dryden chose to interpret the absence of greater disaster as miraculous intervention by God, as "666" was then regarded as the Number of the Beast, and the year 1666 expected by some to be particularly disastrous.

In addition to this, the English fleet defeated a Dutch fleet in the St James' Day Battle, for a great victory at sea. (However, in 1667 the Dutch burned several major warships of the English fleet in the raid on the Medway and Charles II was forced to sue for peace.)

Isaac Newton

In the year 1666, Isaac Newton made revolutionary inventions and discoveries in calculus, motion, optics and gravitation. As such, it has later been called Isaac Newton's "Annus Mirabilis." It was in this year that Isaac Newton was alleged to have observed an apple falling from a tree, and in which he in any case hit upon the law of universal gravitation (Newton's apple). He was afforded the time to work on his theories due to the closure of Cambridge University by an outbreak of plague.[5][6]

1759 – William Pitt

A series of victories by the British military in 1759 in North America, Europe, India, and in various naval engagements, is occasionally referred to as William Pitt's annus mirabilis, and was the decisive year of the Seven Years' War.[7][8]

1776 – The Liberty year

For this year the term annus mirabilis is often used.[9] David Hume died in August, but could experience The Wealth of Nations from Adam Smith and the Declaration of Independence by the later USA. Already on January 10 the famous pamphlet Common Sense, written by Thomas Paine, was published anonymously and became an immediate sensation.

1905 – Albert Einstein

The year 1905 has very much been linked to the term annus mirabilis, as Albert Einstein made important discoveries concerning the photoelectric effect, Brownian motion and the special theory of relativity as well as the famous E = mc2 equation. His articles, collectively known as his Annus Mirabilis papers, were published in Annalen der Physik in 1905.[10][11]


This phrase has since been used to refer to other years. The examples here are primarily from the English-speaking world.

See also


  1. ed. Hibbard, G.R. (1951). Three Elizabethan Pamphlets (1951 ed.). London: George G. Harrap & Co. LTD. p. 173. ISBN 0836950348. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Bibliographic use of expression related to 1492
  3. The Count-Duke of Olivares: The Statesman in an Age of Decline, Yale University Press, 1986, ISBN 0300044992, pg. 226.
  4. [1] Western New England College
  5. "Universal Gravitation – The Physics Hypertextbook". Retrieved December 10, 2012. In the same year [1666] I began to think of gravity extending to the orb of the moon, .... All this was in the two plague years of 1665 and 1666, for in those days I was in the prime of my age for invention, and minded mathematics and philosophy more than at any time since.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "Newton's Birth Date and The Anni Mirabiles". Retrieved December 10, 2012. In the beginning of the year 1665 I found the Method of approximating series & the Rule for reducing any dignity of any Binomial into such a series. The same year in May I found the method of Tangents of Gregory & Slusius, & in November had the direct method of fluxions & the next year in January had the Theory of Colors & in May following I had entrance into the inverse method of fluxions. And the same year I began to think of gravity extending to the orb of the Moon & (having found out how to estimate the force with which a globe revolving within a sphere presses the surface of the sphere) from Keplers rule of the periodical times of the Planets being in sesquialterate proportion of their distances from the centers of their Orbs, I deduced that the forces which keep the Planets in their Orbs must be reciprocally as the squares of their distances from the centers about which they revolve: and thereby compared the force requisite to keep the Moon in her Orb with the force of gravity at the surface of the earth ... All this was in the two plague years of 1665 and 1666. For in those days I was in the prime of my age of invention & minded Mathematics & Philosophy more than at any time since.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Blanning p.299
  8. Monod p.167
  9. John H. Lienhard: Inventing Modern : Growing up with X-Rays, Skyscrapers, and Tailfins. Oxford University Press, 2003 p.39, 2009 Exhibition Catalogue p.66-73
  10. Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore
  11. Greene, Brian. "How Albert Einstein's Theory of Relativity Changed Our Universe". The Forward. Retrieved 23 November 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. Philip Larkin, "Annus Mirabilis"
  13. 13.0 13.1 Sid Lowe. "Barcelona's Annus mirabilis will be hard to emulate (part one)". World Soccer. Retrieved December 10, 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. Gott, Richard: Cuba: A New History, page 242. Yale University Press, 2004.
  15. Isaacs, J and Downing, T: Cold War, page 397. Bantam Press, 1998.
  16. "Lionel Messi's annus mirabilis". BBC Sport. Retrieved December 10, 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>


  • Blanning, T.C.W.The Culture of Power the Power of Culture: Old Regime Europe 1660–1789. Oxford University Press, 2002.
  • Monod, Paul Kléber. Imperial Island: A History of Britain and Its Empire, 1660–1837. Wiley-Blackwell, 2009.