Today, March 11, 2012, people in the United States will “spring forward” as DST began at 2:00AM. The main purpose of Daylight Saving Time (DST), also called “Daylight Savings Time” and “Summer Time,” is to make better use of daylight. Countries that observe DST set their clocks one-hour ahead in order to “move” an hour of daylight from the morning to the evening.
The idea of daylight saving was first conceived by Benjamin Franklin when he served as delegate in Paris in 1784, in an essay, “An Economical Project.” In 1907, the idea of DST was first supported seriously by London builder William Willett in the pamphlet, “Waste of Daylight.”
If you live near the equator, day and night are nearly the same length (approximately 12 hours), but elsewhere on Earth, there is much more daylight in the summer than in the winter. The closer you live to the North or South Pole, the longer the period of daylight in the summer. Thus, Daylight Saving Time is usually not helpful in the tropics, and countries near the equator generally do not change their clocks.
- New Zealand entomologist George Vernon Hudson proposed the idea of shifting clocks in summer in 1895, so he could spend more time collecting bugs after his day job at the post office. New Zealand did not adopt his idea until 1927, after Hudson had retired from the postal service.
- Germany became the first European country to try DST in April of 1916, in order to conserve energy during wartime. Germany’s allies quickly followed. England tried it in May of that year. The U.S. first tried DST in 1918, but dropped it after two years. Except for a federal mandate during World War II, DST was optional among the states until 1966, after which states must legally opt out if they choose.
- The only states in the U.S. that do not observe DST are Arizona and Hawaii. Arizona found that any savings in lighting costs were more than offset by the extra cost of air conditioning for that evening daylight hour. The Navaho reservation in Arizona does observe DST, while the Hopi reservation contained inside the Navaho reservation does not. Hawaii follows the lead of many tropical areas that do not benefit from DST, as the amount of daylight doesn’t vary much near the equator.
- Antarctica has 24 time zones. However, since the continent also has continuous daylight in the southern summer and continuous dark in the winter, research stations keep the same time as their home countries, in order to coordinate work, communication, and shipping schedules.
And there you have the 411 about Daylight Saving Time, Daylight Savings Time, Summer Time…whatever…I forgot to set my clocks ahead anyway!
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