Daylight Savings 2012 Weekend: Fall Back

"Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise," said Benjamin Franklin, one of the original champions of Daylight Saving Time.

At 2 a.m. on Sunday, Nov. 4, time will fall back an hour with the shift from Daylight Saving Time  (DST) to standard time. You can thank Benjamin Franklin for this.

According to the book Seize the Daylight by David Perau, Franklin was was living in Paris when he was awoken by sunlight coming in through the windows.

"An accidental sudden noise waked me about six in the morning when I was surprised to find my room filled with light," Franklin wrote in a letter to the Journal de Paris, according Perau. "I imagined at first that a number of lamps had been brought into the room; but rubbing my eyes I perceived the light came in at the windows."

What followed was a plan to save Paris' money by relying by optimizing sunlight rather than pricey candles.

The real father of DST was an Englishman, William Willett (1857-1915), a house builder who spent the last eight years of his life petitioning for the adoption of DST by the British Parliament, and did so at his expense. It was his own personal crusade.   

Willett produced a pamphlet The Waste of Daylight.  In it he proposed that the clocks should be advanced by 80 minutes in the summer. The evenings would then remain light for longer, increasing daylight recreation time and also saving $2.5 million in lighting costs. He suggested that the clocks should be advanced by 20 minutes at a time at 2 am on successive Sundays in April and be turned back by the same amount on Sundays in September.

Robert Pearce, a member of Parliament, introduced the measure in a select committee of the legislature.  A very young Winston Churchill heartily endorsed the proposal.  Several times, the bill came to a vote, and each time, it met with defeat.  Sadly, Willett died in 1915, of influenza, never living to see his longed-for idea come to fruition.  

Ironically, events elsewhere in Europe prompted its eventual adoption. In the Summer of 1914, World War I broke out in Europe. Germany and her allies were the first European nations to adopt Willet's proposal. The measure went into effect on April 30, 1916, stemming from the need to conserve coal during wartime. Great Britain, Russia and several neutral European countries came on board in 1917.  The United States formally adopted the law in 1918, athough some states and territories have exempted themselves from following DST.

According to Rasmussen Reports, the majority of Americans simply don't think moving the clock forward or back is "worth the hassle." Results of a survey showed that 47 percent think it's not worthwhile, while 40 percent disagree. The remaining 13 percent aren't sure.

Despite the long-running tradition that began in 1918, 27 percent of people have admitted they have been late or early to an event due to DST. In a related survey, more women than men were aggravated having to change the time.

david November 02, 2012 at 12:52 PM
Correction- it's "early to bed, early to Rise". Who's proof reading these quotes?
George Slefo November 02, 2012 at 02:24 PM
Thanks for the catch David. The article now reflects your comment. Best, George


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