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Daylight Saving Time History

Daylight Saving Time History

Origin of Daylight Saving Time

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What is daylight saving time, and why do 73 countries and territories around the world (48 in Europe, eight in North America, six in Asia, five in Oceania and three in Africa and South America) adhere to the annual DST clock shifts?

To fully understand daylight saving time and its application in our daily lives, we must first attempt to comprehend the fundamentals of the science of timekeeping. Time keeping is not a natural phenomenon. It is a system devised by humans based on the rotation of the earth and in direct correlation with its orbit around the sun. 

Daylight Saving Time History
Origin of Daylight Saving Time

From ancient sundials to modern atomic clocks, there was a need to adopt a constant standard that would integrate the different time zones worldwide into one single timekeeping mechanism that would allow easier cross borders referencing and management. The current unanimously agreed upon world time scale is the Universal Time Coordinated (UTC), which officially took over from the Greenwich Meridian Time (GMT) on January 1, 1972. It is based on the aggregate timing of sources from each time zone, coordinated by the International Earth Rotation Service.

The success of these single reference clock, however, created, or rather, enhanced a problem that has been steadily growing over the years. While the length of the days and nights are almost constant around the year near the equatorial region, the same cannot be said for areas closer to both the South and North poles. Daylights generally last longer in these regions, and the start of the day gradually shifts earlier in the summer and grows later towards the winter. In other words, the morning begins earlier in the summer and vice versa in the winter.

While this may appear as somewhat insignificant in the grand scheme of things – after all, why the hassle over an hour a day, you may rightfully wonder – it does represent a significant economic disadvantage to many industries. The early light and early sundown reduce the productive economic potential of a society as well as increasing costs, in the form of lighting and heating, primarily.

Daylight Saving Time History

As such, a simple method was devised to overcome the issue – the daylight saving time. First proposed in 1895 by New Zealand scientist George Hudson (On Seasonal Time-adjustment in Countries South of Lat. 30°), the concept is actually quite simple. By advancing the clock by one hour during the summer (officially, on the second Sunday of March in North America and the last Sunday in March in Europe – excluding Iceland, Belarus, Russia and Turkey) and one hour reverse in the winter (first Sunday of November), communities, states, and nations can streamline the length of their days and nights, and maximize the economic potential of longer summer days.

Germany was one of the earliest adopters of the concept, followed closely by the United Kingdom, in 1915 and 1916 respectively. The United States adopted the concept in 1918, but almost immediately abandoned it after strong criticisms from citizens. However, the concept was implemented again during the Second World War, under the guise of War Time. After the war ended, the American government left the choice to individual states and did not pursue the matter until 1966, when Congress passed the Uniform Time Act, which specified a standardized mechanism for the implementation of the daylight saving time. Since then, various changes have been made to the act, and we have seen the eventual participation of almost all American states and territories in the scheme, with the exception of Arizona, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Guam, and American Samoa.

List of Countries and Territories Observing Daylight Savings Time

Europe Asia Africa South America N. America Oceania
Akrotiri and Dhekelia (UK) Iran Morocco Brazil Bahamas Australia
Albania Israel Namibia Chile Bermuda (UK) Fiji
Andorra Jordan Western Sahara Paraguay Canada New Zealand
Austria Lebanon     Cuba Samoa
Belgium Mongolia     Greenland (DK) Tonga
Bosnia & Herzegovina Syria     Mexico  
Bulgaria       Saint Pierre and Miquelon (FR)  
Croatia       United States  
Cyprus          
Czech Republic          
Denmark          
Estonia          
Faroe Islands (DK)          
Finland          
France          
Germany          
Greece          
Guernsey (UK)          
Holy See          
Hungary          
Ireland          
Isle of Man (UK)          
Italy          
Jersey (UK)          
Kosovo          
Latvia          
Liechtenstein          
Lithuania          
Luxembourg          
Macedonia          
Malta          
Moldova          
Monaco          
Montenegro          
Netherlands          
Norway          
Poland          
Portugal          
Romania          
San Marino          
Serbia          
Slovakia          
Slovenia          
Spain          
Sweden          
Switzerland          
Ukraine          
United Kingdom          

 

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