Who came up with the transition to daylight saving time: ideas that are already a hundred years old

Yulia PoteriankoLife
American Benjamin Franklin and Briton William Willett are considered the main authors of the daylight saving time idea

The tradition of changing times in spring and fall may seem commonplace now, but it wasn't always the case. The idea of adjusting time to make more efficient use of daylight hours was first conceived in the 18th century.

OBOZREVATEL recounts the history of how this tradition originated and shares various interesting facts related to the transition to summer and wintertime.

What does Benjamin Franklin have to do with it

American politician and scientist Benjamin Franklin, a figure of significant importance honored with a portrait on the $100 bill, is credited with various inventions. These include bifocal glasses, the rocking chair, and even the idea of changing time twice a year. Franklin proposed this idea in his 1784 essay, "The Economic Project," when he served as the American ambassador to Paris.

Known for his frugality, Franklin aimed to maximize the use of daylight hours to avoid wasting candles during work in the dark. He calculated that 100 families in Paris burned 0.2 kg of candles per hour, continuing for 7 hours a day. Franklin estimated that setting the clocks back by just one hour could save 96 million livres.

This wasn't his only proposal to optimize daylight use. Franklin suggested taxing blinds that blocked light at home, restricting people, except doctors, from walking in the dark, and introducing a weekly candle sales rate of 0.45 kg per family. He even proposed starting the morning in the city with bells and cannon fire to keep citizens awake well after sunrise. Franklin wrote, "If a man is obliged to rise at four o'clock in the morning, he will willingly go to bed at eight in the evening," expressing his belief that people would adapt to this routine in 2-to 3 days. His proposals were more of a satirical critique of social norms.

How it was in Great Britain

In the early 20th century, a powerful empire actively developing science and a rational approach to life, Great Britain, saw the serious promotion of the idea of daylight saving by inventor and builder William Willet in 1905. In his 1907 pamphlet, "On the Waste of Daylight," Willet expressed annoyance that people slept when the sun had already risen.

"We wind our pocket, table, and wall clocks 365 times a year, and the procedure of changing the hands only eight times a year is no more complicated. But the British will get 210 'extra' hours of daylight per year and save two and a half million pounds on lighting," pointed out Willet.

Before World War I, Willet attempted to gain parliamentary support for the idea, even enlisting the support of a young Winston Churchill. Unfortunately, the outbreak of war interrupted Willet's campaign.

Support for the idea of time change also came from writer Arthur Conan Doyle, author of the Sherlock Holmes novels. He considered Willet's ideas extremely useful, stating that the disadvantages of time change would be small compared to the benefits.

The First World War made the idea relevant as Britain and its allies needed to save on resources for the war effort. On May 21, 1916, Britain adopted daylight saving time for the first time, leading to significant savings on coal. Regrettably, Willet did not live to see that day, as he passed away in 1915. In his honor, a sundial was installed in Petts Wood in southeast London, which continually displays daylight saving time.

Earlier, OBOZREVATEL told you how to prepare yourself for setting the clocks forward by one hour.

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