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Who Invented Daylight Saving Time?

Insect collector George Vernon Hudson wanted to maximize daylight hours (Wikimedia)

You can thank insect collector George Vernon Hudson for an extra hour of sleep on November 6 (Wikimedia)

In pursuit of insects, one man introduced Daylight Saving Time.

While the time shift has led to grumpy late risers and missed meetings, entomologist George Vernon Hudson was interested in conserving daylight. The New Zealander had shift-work at the Wellington Post Office and wondered how he could catch more bugs in the summer when dusk came early.

In October 1895 he proposed a two-hour shift forward in October and a two-hour shift back in March to the Wellington Philosophical Society. While the idea was laughed off at first, Hudson had a friend in parliamentarian Thomas Kay Sidey who spent 20 years reintroducing a bill that would implement the daylight saving measure. Sidey argued that the schedule adjustment would give people more time during the summers to enjoy the outdoors and cut down consumption of artificial light. His labor paid off in 1927, when he passed the Summer Time Act, which trialed an extra hour of daylight.

The extra hour of daylight after working-hours during the summer months is of especial value to indoor workers and the community as a whole as it gives one additional hour for recreation of all kinds, whether playing games or working in garden plots…one cannot overlook the economic advantages that will also accrue

Hudson was awarded the TK Sidey medal at the Royal Society on 1934 and lived to see DST implemented across the world. Today, 70 countries follow DST mostly in areas farther from the equator, where daylight hours are pretty much constant year round. However, Hudson does not deserve all the credit (or blame) for creating DST. Here are a few other DST advocates across history:

Benjamin Franklin

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Benjamin Franklin wanted to economize on candles (Getty)

Founding Father Benjamin Franklin jokingly wrote that getting Parisians out of bed earlier would help save on candle costs. His 1784 essay, “An Economical Project for Diminishing the Cost of Light”, was addressed to the editor of the Journal of Paris. Then the ambassador to France, Franklin calculated that using daylight hours more efficiently could save Parisians 96,075,000 livres tournois or $200 million in today’s dollars, according to the Blaze. For Parisians not willing to jump on bard, Franklin offered sleep-offending reprisals:

Every morning, as soon as the sun rises, let all the bells in every church be set ringing; and if that is not sufficient? Let cannon be fired in every street, to wake the sluggards effectually, and make them open their eyes to see their true interest.

William Willett

Britain’s advocate for DST, Willett unceasingly pushed for setting clocks forward in the summer. The British builder lobbied for the daylight saving measure in 1907 and eventually saw the legislature propose a daylight saving bill. However, Willett’s push to set clocks forward 80 minutes through four 20 minute increments beginning in April complicated his proposal, according to the BBC. While he had the backing of politicians Winston Churchill and David Lloyd Garrison, Sherlock Holmes author Arthur Conan Doyle remarked, “A single alteration of an hour would be a round number, and cause less confusion.” Willett died from influenza in 1915, but Britain implemented the daylight saving time a year later to save fuel during World War I.

King Edward VII

King Edward VII set clocks back 30 minutes so he would have more daylight time to hunt on his royal estate. He implemented Sandringham time six years after the entomologist Hudson proposed a two-hour shift in 1895 to New Zealand. After the king’s death, his son George V carried on the tradition. However, it was abolished at the end of George’s reign because of confusion over time differences it caused.

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1 comment

  1. The reference to George Vernon Hudson in the last paragraph as “entomologist Hunter” needs correction. Also, that Sandringham time was implemented six years after Hudson’s proposal in 1905 is confusing given your previously stated dates.