How Did Daylight Saving Time Begin… and Is It Even Necessary Today?


Always a controversial subject, the changing of the clocks to Daylight Saving Time in Spring and Autumn has caused joy and annoyance in equal measures ever since its inception over 100 years ago. There are many who feel ‘robbed’ of an hour of sleep in Spring and then rejoice at the thought of an ‘extra hour’ in Autumn. Of course, nobody is really taking from or adding an hour into our standard 24 at all!


The simplest way to explain Daylight Saving Time is that we choose to tamper with the clocks every six months or so in order to make better use of the daylight hours available to us.


So, Where Did Daylight Saving Time Begin?


Well, although he didn’t propose moving the clocks forward or back, Benjamin Franklin (then an American delegate in Paris) wrote an essay in 1784 titled “An Economical Project.” He had noticed that Parisians were sleeping through the early hours of sunshine in the morning and suggested going to bed earlier and rising earlier to both economise on candles and benefit from the natural light.


He even suggested jokingly that church bells should be rung and cannons fired in the street at sunrise! Needless to say, that suggestion didn’t catch on. You probably won’t be surprised to learn that Benjamin Franklin is largely thought to be responsible for the popularisation of the old English proverb “Early to bed, and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.”


It took until 1895 for Franklin’s idea to be taken a step closer to what is now a bi-annual ritual. This time it was George Vernon Hudson (an entomologist from New Zealand) who proposed moving the clocks forward two hours in the summer. Despite significant interest, the proposal came to nothing.


Fresh Light


10 years later, in 1905, a British builder named William Willett had the same idea when out on his morning horse ride. He noticed that Londoners still had their blinds drawn and were snoozing through the morning daylight. His suggestion was to set the clocks ahead 20 minutes on each of the 4 Sundays in April and switch them back by the same amount on each of the 4 Sundays in September – a total of 8 time-switches per year!


He spent a fortune campaigning for his suggestion to be taken up and caught the attention of MP Robert Pearce who introduced a bill to the House of Commons in 1908 trying to make it compulsory to change the clocks. However, this was met with massive opposition, particularly from the agricultural community. Willet died in 1915, without ever seeing his vision come to fruition.


Desperate Times Call for Desperate Measures


On April 30th 1916, Germany and its axis partner Austria-Hungary introduced Daylight Saving Time (DST) as a means of conserving coal during wartime. Britain followed suit on May 21st 1916. With countries around the globe desperately striving for any advantage they could gain, the practice quickly spread across entire continents. After World War I was over, most countries reverted to the practice of peacetime, leaving the clocks unchanged throughout the year.


In this country, however, we persisted with DST – with British Summer Time being enshrined in law during the 1920s. Things were taken even further when the second World War began – this time, clocks in Britain were put two hours ahead of GMT during the summer. This was known as ‘Double Summer Time’ and once again the stated aim was to save energy. Ever since, DST has been enacted, repealed and adjusted countless times across the world.




Is Daylight Saving Time Still Relevant Today?


As the initial adoption of DST was only really due to the impact of wartime and energy shortages, many people question whether there is really any need for us to go through the hassle of adapting to an hour’s difference twice a year.


It has always been a deeply divisive topic, with some people and industries welcoming the change, and others that that feel their whole routines are disrupted time after time. Of course, the extent to which citizens are affected by these time changes varies wildly depending on their location and the roles that they perform, so perhaps it’s not surprising that there should be such a wide range of opinion.


As well as those who think the practice should be abandoned altogether, a significant number of people are supporters of an even more radical concept known as ‘Single/Double Summer Time’ (SDST). They suggest that British Summer Time be maintained during the winter months, and that a “double summertime” be applied to the current British Summer Time period, putting the UK one hour ahead of GMT during winter, and two hours ahead during summer!



Making Light Work


We’ve previously discussed how lighting can impact on productivity in the workplace. Whatever your view on Daylight Savings Time, remember that Mount Lighting have solutions to ensure your workplace is perfectly illuminated. Whether you want to upgrade old luminaires to add smart controls, create a stunning reception area using M-Line, or completely transform a work area by replacing old-fashioned and flickering fluorescent tubes with bright and modern LED panels, Mount can help.


Why not get in touch with us today to find out more?


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