Daylight Savings Time: When and Why it was Invented

Many Americans and other people around the world are well accustomed to the idea of Daylight Saving Time (DST). It is a practice that has been there since 1784, where people set the clock one hour ahead of the standard time to save energy by using more sunlight.

While the idea may be unpleasant to some, many are pleased with an extra hour of daylight that they can make use of, especially during summer. Setting your clock forward by one hour means you will lose an hour of sleep but add an extra one in the evenings.

But where did the invention of daylight savings time come from? Read on and find out more.

Who Invented DST, and for What Reasons?

The idea of DST was invented by Benjamin Franklin in 1784 when he was a France delegate. He first wrote of the idea in an essay titled ” An Economical Project,” where he satirically calculated how France could save energy by waking up at dawn. In this essay, Franklin explained how the idea of using sunshine instead of candles could save an equivalent of $200 million. Though Franklin was given the honor of this invention, he did not propose a change in time but a change in sleeping schedules.

In 1895, a New Zealand entomologist, George Hudson, coined modern daylight saving time. He suggested a two-hour time shift so that he’d have more hours of daylight after working hours to go hunting. He proposed the idea of moving the clock ahead by two hours in October and a two-hour shift back in March to the Wellington Philosophical Society.

In 1907, An Englishman, William Willet, led the campaign for the adoption of the DST. In his publication “The Waste of Daylight,” Willet explained how people could utilize daylight to spend a brief period of leisure at their disposal. He lobbied the parliament to consider his suggestion, but the idea was not implemented until he died in 1915.

The concept reemerged during WW1 and was adopted to save energy. The idea was to spend more time utilizing daylight and less time inside using lights at night. In 1908, Ontario was the first to implement the DST practice, followed by other Canadian locations. Germany and Austria-Hungary also followed suit by enacting a nationwide DST policy in1916 as a way to save energy during the war. The rest of Europe also began the enactment of the idea.

In March 1918, the US Congress passed DST as a law, and many states were to decide whether they wanted to accept the time change. The law was repealed a few months before President Franklin D. Roosevelt relaunched it in 1942, and in 1966 President Lyndon Johnson signed a law that made a start and end of DST date uniform under the Uniform Time Act. The US Chamber of Commerce was the main supporter of the policy to save fuel. However, farmers opposed the idea, contrary to the belief that it would create more time to work in the fields. But why? According to farmers, the clock did not dictate their farming schedules, but the sun did. They felt that daylight savings time is a disruptive schedule that will cause confusion.

Not every state observes DST.

Despite the Uniform Time Act, DST states were left to decide on its adoption. Some states like Arizona opted out because an extra hour in summer when temperatures are so high doesn’t make sense. Other areas like Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Northern Marianas, the US Virgin Islands, and American Samoa don’t follow DST.

When is DST?

Most people remember several federal events easily, but many get confused about the time for the DST. In the US, since 2007, DST happens on the second Sunday of March when the clock is moved forward for an hour and the first Sunday of November when it’s moved back as mandated by the Energy Policy Act of 2005. After the Uniform Time Act, the lawmakers decided that the shift of time would happen at 2 a.m.

In Germany, Britain, and France, DST happens on the last Sunday in March when the clock springs forward and the last Sunday of October when it goes back.

Do we still Need it today?

For almost a century, many people in countries that observe DST have been springing forward their clock and falling back. But the question is, do we still need it in today’s economy or the world? According to the US Department of Transportation study carried out in the 1970s, DST helped lower the electricity bill by 1%. However, not every state is in support of DST. For instance, West Virginia policy makers wanted to abolish DST and instead make Eastern Standard Time official their official time.

But, there are those in support of the DST. For instance, The Senator Marco Rubio of Florida introduced the Sunshine Protection Act of 2019 in Congress to make DST permanent for the nation. According to Rubio, research has shown the benefits of daylight saving time. Also, in Europe, the European Union Commission voted to abolish DST by 2021, where 84% of EU citizens wanted it to be abolished. Countries like UK, Greece, and Portugal want DST to remain.

Should it remain? The idea of daylight savings time was to conserve energy, but several reports suggest that messing with the clock doesn’t save energy. According to the California Energy Commission’s Demand Analysis Office and the Tufts University teacher, Michael Downing, DST doesn’t save energy. Also, this shift in time robs people’s sleep which may cause a decline in productivity and scheduling errors. On the other hand, DST advocates suggest that there has been a reduction in car accidents, energy consumption, and robberies during the daylight saving months. Whether to keep or abolish it depends on the results people get by embracing DST.

How would the Modern World Change if we Got Rid of It? Pros and Cons DST

Getting rid of DST would bring both positive and negative effects. According to the opponents of DST, setting the clock forth and back doesn’t save energy. In the modern world, with all the use of computers, TV screens, and air conditioning units, no matter when the sun is up, the energy saved through daylight saving time is almost insignificant. However, getting rid of DTS means people will use more artificial light than natural light, resulting in more energy consumption.

DST brings an extra hour in the evening, which helps mitigate risks associated with the evening rush, like accidents. Getting rid of it means people will be involved in various risky activities. For instance, there will be a lot of unsupervised play by the children, people will rush to get home, and others will be involved in other leisure activities like drinking. All these activities may be risky.

Health experts say a clock switch can affect your health and overall welfare. It causes havoc in sleeping cycles, leading to health issues like heart attack and decreased productivity. Returning to standard time will offer people an extra hour to enjoy their sleep.

According to the US Chamber of Commerce, DST causes an economic boost as many Americans tend to shop more after work. In today’s fast-paced world, getting rid of DST can significantly lead to a drop in business or economic activities.

Final Thoughts

Several states in the US have tabled bills that will end the biannual setting of clocks. The Sunshine Protection Act of 2019 allows all states to switch to DST permanently. There will be a permanent DST in the US. With daylight saving time having its share of pros and cons, what do you think? Should we keep it or not?


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