There was no year 0 A.D. Our designation of years is based on ordinal numbers of years before and after a specific instant. The first year before that instant was designated to be the first year B.C., and the first year after was designated to be the first year A.D (more commonly written as 1 A.D.).
The 1st Century A.D. had to start at the beginning of the first year A.D., and thus consists of the years 1 A.D. through and including 100 A.D. The 2nd Century A.D. started on January 1 of the year 101 A.D.
Someone wrote in to PC magazine a while back about how stupid this was, and that common sense shows that the century starts with 2000. He proceded to give an argument that disproved his own point; he said something to the effect of "Everyone would agree that your 100th penny is part of your first dollar." That is, of course, entirely true, which means that your 2nd dollar starts with your 101st penny. Centuries work in exactly the same way.
Last updated February 28, 1999
Copyright 1999 Eric Smith