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Dear Mitch,

Who invented Daylight Savings Times?

And why?


Becky C.


Dear Becky C., 

Like many of the things that a man or person invented before most of us (or all of us now living), there are different versions of who actually 'invented' something.  And to make the situation even more complicated, there is an expression that many historians and scientists believe, which says something like this:  "Inventors seldom get things completely right", which does seem to be true.  In other words, one person may have come up with the first idea of how to do something, but then shortly afterward another person or a series of other people come up with improvements that make some 'crazy' idea useful or practical or affordable.

(One example, which I recall from reading a book entitled, A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson, is Celsius degrees.  If memory serves me, Mr. Celsius did invent a scale for measuring temperature that goes from 0 to 100, but he had 0 degrees Celsius as the boiling point and 100 degrees Celsius as the freezing point!  Now, we use the scale he invented in the exact opposite order.) 

To answer your question, until fairly recently, I was under the impression that Daylight Savings Time (DST) was the idea of Benjamin Franklin, who, when visiting Paris from his home in England, had noticed that it stays light outside much later in Paris than in most or all of England.  I have lived in England and have family there, and I have visited Paris many times and have a friend who lives there, and I am certain that Mr. Franklin is correct about that.  For much of the year in Paris, there is still light in the sky at 10:00 p.m.  Benjamin Franklin, being an inventor and original thinker, realized it would reduce the amount of time, energy, and money that people would need to burn candles and lamps at night (remember, this was before the days of the electric light bulbs we use today!)

But I have since learned that the story is a little more complicated than that, and that Benjamin Franklin had only use the idea as a joke in an anonymous article he wrote which explained all the things The English people could do to 'Make' the Parisians spend more on all the candles and other fuels, etc., many of which were being sold to them by people and manufacturers from England.

Daylight Savings Time was an Englishman William Willett in 1905.  He had several reasons, but one of the main ones was that he was an avid ('big') golfer, and he did not like the way his golf game was often cut short by the darkening sky.  He published his idea two years later and tried to get it to be used, and he even argued for it until his death in 1915.  The world was not ready to try it yet.  Soon, though, at least some nations did, and many continue to do so.

There are advantages and disadvantages to the who idea and the way it is used, especially since some countries use it, some don't, some are broken up into sections, like the states that make up the United States, with some states using it and some not suing it, and – worst of all – some parts of the world starting it on some days while others start it on other days, and some ending the DLST on one schedule while another may not end it for several more days.

It is still controversial, because times have changed, of course, and now there are probably as many people who are hurt by it as thee are people who are helped by it, and it seems to cause the most confusion at big, international airports, when you need to get to your destination on time, but that destination's time is changing while you are in the air!

Two last points: 

1) It is called "Daylight savings time", not "daylight savings times",

And --

2) It's always been kind of funny to me that Benjamin Franklin, who wrote the famous proverb, "Early to bed, and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise" was NOT usually an early riser at all.  He preferred to stay up late at night, for his quiet time thinking and relaxing!

It's become a confusing subject because there are so many reasons in favor of it and so many against it, and from place to place it is used or not used for all kinds of reasons, but....

I hope this helps,