Re: [R] Problem with very old dates

From: Marc Schwartz <>
Date: Sun 29 Oct 2006 - 16:58:45 GMT

On Sun, 2006-10-29 at 10:31 -0600, tom soyer wrote:
> Hi,
> I noticed that as.Date() could not convert date string to date type if the
> dates are very old. For example, if the date string is "1-Mar-50", then
> as.Date() would convert this to "2050-03-01", NOT "1950-03-01". This seems
> to be the behavior of as.Date() for dates older than 1969-1-1, and it is not
> documented in the R as.Date() documentation. It seems very strange that R
> would fail to convert old dates correctly. Does anyone know if this is the
> correct behavior? If so, then which method should one use to convert old
> dates?
> Thanks,
> Tom
> P.S., I am using R 2.4.0 for Windows.

This is covered in ?strftime, which is also noted in the "See Also" for ?as.Date, where it says:

"Your system's help pages on strftime and strptime to see how to specify their formats."

In this case, the former help page in R indicates:


        Year without century (00–99). If you use this on input, which
        century you get is system-specific. So don't! Often values up to
        69 (or 68) are prefixed by 20 and 70(or 69) to 99 by 19.

Thus on FC5 Linux, I get:

> as.Date("1-Mar-50", format = "%d-%b-%y")
[1] "2050-03-01"

Ideally, you should change the representation of the Year component of the dates you are working with to show a full four digit year and then use (note %Y (capital 'Y') instead of %y):

> as.Date("1-Mar-1950", format = "%d-%b-%Y")
[1] "1950-03-01"

If this data was exported from another data source (ie. Excel) change the format in that program prior to exporting.

Otherwise, you could do something like this in R using sub():

> sub("-([0-9]+)$", "-19\\1", "1-Mar-50")
[1] "1-Mar-1950"

Which will change the two digit year ('50') to a four digit year ('1950'). See ?sub and ?regexp for more information.

HTH, Marc Schwartz mailing list PLEASE do read the posting guide and provide commented, minimal, self-contained, reproducible code. Received on Mon Oct 30 09:48:41 2006

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