I woke up this past Sunday morning at my usual time, took note of the lack of light streaming into my bedroom, glanced at the clock on my cellphone, and then lay back down to contemplate the obvious change at hand.
Daylight Savings Time (DST) has officially begun with the clocks moving ahead one hour this past weekend. The reality that I would have to reacclimate to morning darkness for several more weeks left me unmotivated. However, I knew I would also begin to reap the benefits of more light later in the day (and for me, that means more golf.)
Most people understand the concept of DST, but few understand how it started and why it’s followed in one form or another in over 70 countries around the world, ultimately affecting over a billion people.
In short, DST is utilized in order to make better use of available daylight and to conserve costly energy.
The beginnings of DST are arguable but many people credit Benjamin Franklin with bringing the idea to the masses when he sent a letter to the editor of the Journal of Paris in 1784 entitled “An Economical Project for Diminishing the Cost of Light.” In his letter, Franklin didn’t suggest altering the clocks, but instead proposed that society as a whole agree to get out of bed earlier.
Not surprisingly, his tongue-in-cheek suggestion went unnoticed.
Some scholars have noted that many ancient civilizations used daylight adjusting practices to better confront the lack of workable nighttime lighting. And in ancient Rome, where unique water clocks were used, different scales were integrated during different months of the year.
But the first true scholarly attempt at instituting an adjustable daylight schedule was in 1895 when New Zealand scientist, George Vernon Hudson, presented a paper to the Wellington Philosophical Society in which he proposed a two-hour clock shift back in October and a two-hour clock shift forward in March. Apparently, Hudson’s paper drew interest, but no one ever followed through with getting the idea instituted.
A few years later in 1905, William Willett, a British home builder from Kent, was out for a morning horseback ride when he noticed that many of the houses he rode past had their shades down, meaning the residents were still asleep while workable light was in abundance.
Using his own resources, Willett self-published a pamphlet entitled, “The Waste of Daylight,” proposing that clocks be advanced by 80 minutes in four incremental 20-minute steps during April and reversed the same way in September. He suggested that with a nationwide implementation, it would save £2.5 million in lighting costs.
Willett’s pamphlet made the rounds and eventually caught the attention of Robert Pearce, a member of the British Parliament. Pearce introduced a bill to the House of Commons in 1908 where a select committee mulled it over and presented it to Parliament several times. Unfortunately, the bill was heavily opposed by farmers and never signed into law.
Unbeknownst to Willett, who died in 1915, his idea had taken hold thousands of miles away in a small town in Ontario, Canada, where a few hundred residents agreed to change their clocks to make better use of available daylight. Soon, other towns and cities throughout Canada joined in.
But the real catalyst for DST occurred in 1916 when the nations of Germany and Austria set their clocks ahead one hour to minimize the use of artificial lighting to save fuel from the war effort of World War I. Within weeks, the United Kingdom, France and several other nations joined in.
Things shifted back when the war ended, but with the arrival of World War II, DST was back in business throughout most of Europe, where it has remained in place ever since.
This week’s film, “Bliss,” features a different attempt at bending the world to fit your needs, albeit one that tickles the brain.
Starring Owen Wilson and Salma Hayek, “Bliss” tells the story of a struggling middle-aged man who accidentally kills his boss. When he’s frantically trying to figure out what to do, a mysterious woman enters his life and reveals that reality is not what it seems.
This is a mind-bending film that will leave most viewers questioning where the reality of the story lies. And while that approach can add an interesting cinematic element, in this case it just muddied up some already cloudy waters.
Check this one out if you’ve got time to kill – just don’t go in expecting much. This movie is available for streaming on Amazon Prime.
A convoluted “C-” for “Bliss.”
Got a question or comment for Dom? You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.