Monday, March 11, 2013

History of Daylight Savings Time

I had a request from my son, Jonathan, to post a blog update about daylight savings time.  I think we would all agree that we don't mind the fall clock adjustment when we FALL BACK and gain an hour.  However, many of us do not like the springing FOWARD of the clock each spring.

I did a posting a few years ago about the history of this clock change.  That posting is reproduced here.

This practice temporarily advances clocks during the summertime so that afternoons have more daylight and mornings have less. Typically clocks are adjusted forward one hour near the start of spring and are adjusted backward in autumn. Modern DST was first proposed in 1895 by George Vernon Hudson. Many countries have used it since then; details vary by location and the practices can change as new laws are sometimes enacted.   

In the spring clocks spring ahead one hour.

In the fall, clocks fall back one hour.

The practice has been both praised and criticized. Adding daylight to afternoons benefits retailing, sports, and other activities that exploit sunlight after working hours, but causes problems for farming, evening entertainment and other occupations tied to the sun. Experts agree that its effect on health and crime is less clear. Although an early goal of DST was to reduce evening usage of incandescent lighting, formerly a primary use of electricity, modern heating and cooling usage patterns differ greatly, and research about how DST currently affects energy use is limited or contradictory.

DST clock shifts present other challenges. They complicate timekeeping, and can disrupt meetings, travel, billing, record keeping, medical devices, heavy equipment, and sleep patterns. Software can often adjust computer clocks automatically, but this can be limited and error-prone, particularly when DST protocols are changed.

Although not punctual in the modern sense, ancient civilizations adjusted daily schedules to the sun even more dramatically than modern DST does. Some cultures often divided daylight into twelve hours regardless of day length, so that each daylight hour was longer during summer and shorter in the winter. For example, Roman water clocks had different scales for different months of the year. At winter solstice the third hour from sunrise started at 09:02 solar time and lasted 44 minutes; at the summer solstice it started at 06:58 and lasted 75 minutes. After ancient times, equal-length civil hours eventually supplanted unequal, so civil time no longer varies by season. Unequal hours are still used in a few traditional settings, such as some Mount Athos monasteries and all Jewish ceremonies.

Benjamin Franklin was in support of adjusting the clock. He satirically suggested firing cannons at sunrise to wake Parisians. During his time as an American envoy to France, Benjamin Franklin, publisher of the old English proverb, "Early to bed, and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise", anonymously published a letter suggesting that Parisians economize on candles by rising earlier to use morning sunlight. This 1784 satire proposed taxing shutters, rationing candles, and waking the public by ringing church bells and firing cannons at sunrise.

Modern DST was first proposed by the New Zealand entomologist George Vernon Hudson, whose shift-work job gave him leisure time to collect insects, and led him to value after-hours daylight. In 1895 he presented a paper to the Wellington Philosophical Society proposing a two-hour daylight-saving shift, and after considerable interest was expressed in Christchurch, New Zealand he followed up in an 1898 paper. Many publications incorrectly credit DST's proposal to the prominent English builder and outdoors man William Willett, who independently conceived DST in 1905 during a pre-breakfast ride, when he observed with dismay how many Londoners slept through a large part of a summer's day. An avid golfer, he also disliked cutting short his round at dusk. His solution was to advance the clock during the summer months, a proposal he published two years later. The proposal was taken up by the Liberal Member of Parliament Robert Pearce, who introduced the first Daylight Saving Bill to the House of Commons on 12 February 1908. A select committee was set up to examine the issue, but Pearce's bill did not become law, and several other bills failed in the following years. Willett lobbied for the proposal in the UK until his death in 1915.

Starting on 30 April 1916, Germany and its World War I allies were the first to use DST as a way to conserve coal during wartime. Britain, most of its allies, and many European neutrals soon followed suit. Russia and a few other countries waited until the next year and the United States adopted it in 1918. Since then, the world has seen many enactments, adjustments, and repeals.

Clock shifts are usually scheduled near a weekend midnight to lessen disruption to weekday schedules. A one-hour shift is customary, but Australia's Lord Howe Island uses a half-hour shift. Twenty-minute and two-hour shifts have been used in the past.

Coordination strategies differ when adjacent time zones shift clocks. The European Union shifts all at once, at 01:00 UTC. Most of North America shifts at 02:00 local time, so its zones do not shift at the same time. For example, Mountain Time can be temporarily either zero or two hours ahead of Pacific Time. In the past, Australian districts went even further and did not always agree on start and end dates. In 2008 most DST-observing areas shifted clocks forward on October 5 but Western Australia shifted on October 26. In some cases only part of a country shifts. In the U.S., Hawaii and most of Arizona do not observe DST.

BLUE DST observed
GOLD DST no longer observed
RED DST never observed

Here is a map showing the 24 time zones on earth.

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