Herb Palm has accomplished quite a bit. He's a well-educated Bethesda homeowner, a father of five children and a company executive.

He celebrates his ninth birthday today.

Mike Palm Jr., Herb's brother, is a management consultant in the Baltimore area. He celebrates his 10th birthday today.

The Palm brothers were born on Leap Days in 1948 and 1952. And like others born on Feb. 29, they get one-fourth as many birthdays as everyone else. But during leap years, Herb Palm said, "We all got so much attention.

"Everyone's kind of floored," he added. " 'You must be 8,' they say. 'You look so big for 8 years old.' In the off years, we celebrated on the 28th."

The quadrennial Leap Day enables the imperfect calendar to match the actual orbit of the Earth. It takes about 365 1/4 days to circle the Sun, according to LeRoy Doggett, an astronomer at the Naval Observatory in Northwest Washington. Without adding these days, the seasons would arrive too early. For example, spring would arrive March 19.

Julia Brown, 48, an administrative assistant at the Naval Observatory and a Fairfax County resident, pointed to other benefits from being born on Leap Day. "It gets better. I stay young," she said. Under her terms, Brown turns 12 today.

On what others might consider her 16th birthday, Brown recalled, high school students in New Holland, Ohio, assembled in the school's auditorum to sing "Happy Birthday" to her. "I never had a birthday party until I was 16," she said. "I was really shocked."

Emily Dorfman was born four years ago today. "She's real proud," said her father, Jonathan Dorfman of Rockville. "She knows it's different. When she's 80, she will probably say she's 20."

Leap year began when Roman Emperor Julius Caesar changed the calendar in 46 B.C. But the seasons slipped anyway. Pope Gregory XIII ordered the calendar revised in 1582. By then, the first day of spring had slipped to early March.

Today, many employees will benefit from leap year by receiving an extra day's pay. But employees who are paid by the month will have to work the additional day for free.

"That's the breaks," Doggett said.