Usage and Grammar

Q. Looking for proper protocol, but will accept opinions. When assigning a century to a notable figure, do you use the year of birth? So if someone is born in 1493, is he a fifteenth-century or sixteenth-century scientist?

A. There is no “protocol”; it’s just common sense. A scientist born in 1493 would be a sixteenth-century scientist—unless this was a prodigy whose main life’s work was accomplished by the age of seven. Fl. (“flourished”) is sometimes used in front of the years of a person’s greatest work, but the best plan is to explain clearly when the person lived and worked.