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Daylight Saving Time

It seems that Daylight Saving Time (DST) is one of those things that people either love or hate. While I enjoy being able to do more in the evening because we have an "extra hour" of daylight, I remember living in Michigan and having daughters who protested at having to go to bed while it was still light outside. We couldn't convince them that it was night. Monday of this week, I had two very different, personal reactions to DST. When my alarm went off at my usual 5:30 rising time, it still felt as if I were getting up at 4:30, and kinda like I had been hit by a truck. But then it was nice to be able to take a walk in the evening while it was still light out, which is something I haven't been able to do in a while. I decided to look into the history of DST, of which I post a synopsis below.


It is often said that Benjamin Franklin came up with the idea of Daylight Saving Time, but from what I could find, that is not necessarily the case. While living in Paris, Ben Franklin woke up earlier than usual one day and was struck by how many hours of daylight were being wasted to sleep during the summer months. He published an anonymous letter to the Journal de Paris in which he suggested satirically that Parisians could economize on candles by rising earlier to use morning sunlight. He did not specifically mention moving the clocks ahead. With tongue firmly planted in cheek, he suggested ways to enforce (rationing the sale of candlewax and levying window shutter taxes) and to encourage (ringing church bells or firing cannons at sunrise) such economies.

Our much-loved/much-hated method of advancing the time by one hour in the spring and rolling it back an hour in the fall is credited at least partially to George Vernon Hudson [2], an entomologist from New Zealand. Because of his love for collecting insects, he greatly valued daylight in the evening, during after work hours. His initial proposal in 1895 was that his country adjust the time by two hours! In England a builder (also an avid golfer) named William Willett [3], also proposed a form of DST to give people more time before dusk for playing golf. He came up with this idea independently from Hudson.

DST was first widely adopted by warring countries during the Great War (WW I) as a means of conserving the coal needed for military purposes. The first to do this was Germany and its allies. Many other countries soon joined them in this practice, and Daylight Saving Time was truly born. I found the following map on Wikipedia. It was especially interesting since it shows that many countries at one time had DST, but have abandoned it.

If you live in one of the countries that used to observe DST, how did people get them to stop?! Do you wish they hadn't stopped or are you happy to be no longer changing your clocks?

The debate over the usefulness of DST continues to the present. This past week someone sent me some ways by which you can know you've just "sprung forward." Below are my favorites from that list. Some are positive, some negative, and some depend on your way of looking at it.

How You Can Know You've Just Gone on Daylight Saving Time

You go to bed at your regular time, but you can't fall asleep, and stay up an extra hour. Then you're dead the next morning from staying up too late.

You have an extra hour of light in the evening — just enough time to mow the lawn.

You set the timer on the coffee pot, but when you get up there is no coffee.

It's dinner time according to the clock, but you are not hungry yet.

You arrive for church an hour late - just as everyone else is leaving.

The clock in your car has the right time for the first time since last November.

When you decide to reset the time on "singing bird clock," it starts singing and won’t stop until you remove the batteries.

You think half-seriously about moving to Arizona since they don't have to deal with all this nonsense.


In the hall Monday morning a Swiss student and I were talking about the similarities between the effects of DST and of jetlag. In connection with that he asked me a question. When I didn't know the answer, he gave gladly supplied it. (I translate from the French):

Q: What is the purpose of jetlag?
A: It's so that, when your flight arrives at the airport, you look like your passport picture.

How about you? Do you like DST, dislike it, barely tolerate it, roll easily with it, get wiped out by it? This week some of my students have told me that it's really thrown them for a loop, at a time when they are already really tired. I'm sure the debate will continue to rage, but we can discuss it here in the comments.


"The gospel is scandalous to people who think that salvation is only for good people." — Drew Conley

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"Definition of a complainer: One who tarries long at the whine." – Kenneth Carr