Today I found out it’s “daylight saving time”, not “daylight savings time”. “Daylight saving time” uses the present participle “saving” as an adjective, as in “labor saving device”.
- Ben Franklin often gets credit for being the “genius” who came up with daylight saving time. Interestingly though, the letter he proposed something like what we now call daylight saving time and which was eventually published in 1784 under the title, An Economical Project, was actually a witty satire meant to entertain some of his friends, not to be taken seriously on any account. It’s quite humorous, click here to give it a read (scroll down a bit for the start). In it, he also proposes taxing people who have shutters on their windows, rationing candles, and waking people as soon as the sun comes up by ringing church bells and firing cannons. With Franklin’s humor though, he probably would find it hilarious that many countries in the world eventually decided it was an idea that made sense. Although it’s quite clear he’s joking around in this paper, he was known for putting more subtle jokes in many of his other papers that only the most astute would recognize. He was so famous for this that when they were deciding who should write the Declaration of Independence, they chose Jefferson over the significantly more qualified and respected Franklin, as they feared Franklin would embed subtle humor in it that wouldn’t be recognized until it was too late to change1.
- The modern day version of DST was first proposed by the New Zealand entomologist George Vernon Hudson in 1895.
- The credit though for the modern day DST system is often incorrectly given to William Willett who independently thought up and lobbied for DST in 1905. He was riding through London one day in the early morning and noticed that a good portion of London’s population slept through several hours of the sunlit summer days. Willet lobbied for DST until his death in 1915. Ironically, it was one year later in 1916 that certain European countries began adopting DST.
- Daylight saving time once single handedly thwarted a terrorist attack, causing the would-be terrorists to blow themselves up instead of other people. What happened was, in September 1999, the West Bank was on daylight saving time while Israel was on standard time; West Bank terrorists prepared bombs set on timers and smuggled them to their associates in Israel. As a result, the bombs exploded one hour sooner than the terrorists in Israel thought they would, resulting three terrorists dying instead of the two busloads of people who were the intended targets.
- Fortune magazine estimates that the recent seven week extension of DST yields an extra 30 million dollars for 7-11 stores.
- In March 2007, an honor student in Pennsylvania was accused of threatening his school with a bomb. It was later found he had actually called an automated school phone line to get information about class schedules; someone else made the bomb threat exactly an hour later, but, due to DST, the time seemed to match up to when the honor student called.
- Daylight saving time was first used during WWI to conserve fuel. The theory was that by adding an hour of sunlight to people’s normal “awake time”, it would cut down on the nations need for artificial light. This may have actually been effective then, but because of our vastly different energy usage today (only 3.5 percent of our energy usage today goes towards lighting), it has generally been shown that the effect on energy usage is negligible; though it has been shown to be a profitable thing for many stores, particularly those that sell product related to outdoor leisure activities.
- Many ancient civilizations used to adjust daily schedules to the sun, though not in the way we do it with DST. For example, it was common then to divide the day into 12 equal hours, regardless of the length of the day. So how long an hour lasted varied based on location and time of the year. To accommodate this, Roman water clocks used different scales for different months of the year.
- Daylight saving time once got a man out of being drafted for the Vietnam War. When drafted, he argued that standard time, not daylight saving time, was the official time for recording births in his state of Delaware at the time of his birth. Thus, he was actually born the previous day using standard time, so he should have had a higher draft lottery number. This defense worked and he didn’t have to go to war.
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