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The History Of Daylight Saving

In 1895, George Hudson, an entomologist from New Zealand, came up with the modern concept of daylight saving time. He proposed a two-hour time shift so he’d have more after-work hours of sunshine to go bug hunting in the summer.

Seven years later, British builder William Willett (the great-great grandfather of Coldplay frontman Chris Martin) independently hit on the idea while out horseback riding. He proposed it to England’s Parliament as a way to prevent the nation from wasting daylight. His idea was championed by Winston Churchill and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle—but was initially rejected by the British government. Willett kept arguing for the concept up until his death in 1915.

In 1916, two years into World War I, the German government started brainstorming ways to save energy.

“They remembered Willett’s idea of moving the clock forward and thus having more daylight during working hours,” explains David Prerau, author of Seize the Daylight: The Curious and Contentious Story of Daylight Saving Time. “While the British were talking about it year after year, the Germans decided to do it more or less by fiat.”

Soon, England and almost every other country that fought in World War I followed suit. So did the United States: On March 9, 1918, Congress enacted its first daylight saving law—and it was a two-fer: In addition to saving daylight, the Standard Time Act defined time zones in the U.S.

In those days, coal power was king, so people really did save energy (and thus contribute to the war effort) by changing their clocks.


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