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Did Benjamin Franklin Invent Daylight Saving Time? 395

Posted by Soulskill
from the just-tell-me-who-to-blame dept.
An anonymous reader writes "While living in Paris, Ben Franklin was struck by how many hours of daylight were being wasted to sleep during the summer months. He wrote an open letter to a Parisian journal lamenting the wasted expenditures on candlewax, and presented his back-of-the-quillpad estimates of the cost savings if the entire population arose an hour or two earlier. However, Franklin did not specifically mention moving the clocks ahead; instead, he suggested official means for enforcement (rationing the sale of candlewax to families) and encouragement (ringing church bells at sunrise). The clock-shifting technique which we know and love was credited to the New Zealander George Vernon Hudson, who proposed it in 1895. DST was first widely adopted by warring countries during World War I as a way of conserving coal needed for military purposes. This launched a debate over DST's usefulness that continues to the present day (particularly by people stumbling about in their bathrooms). Of course, Franklin is also associated with other questionable ideas, including bifocals, lightning rods, electric current flowing from the positive to negative terminal, leaking official documents to fan opposition, and an independent United States of America." New research suggests the daylight saving time change will lead to lower productivity tomorrow as the lost sleep makes workers more likely to slack (PDF).
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Did Benjamin Franklin Invent Daylight Saving Time?

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  • Ah, Ben Franklin (Score:5, Informative)

    by mykepredko (40154) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @08:29PM (#39321345) Homepage

    One of my childhood heroes - I'm not surprised that he would have questioned the custom of keeping the same hours throughout the year as the sun rises and sets at different times.

    My favourite story about him: Thomas Jefferson would not allow Franklin to work on the Declaration of Independence because he feared Franklin would put too many jokes in it.

    myke

    • by pushing-robot (1037830) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @09:57PM (#39322019)

      As the summary mentions, Ben's argument was basically that "early to bed and early to rise" saved energy. Getting up with the sun and going to sleep earlier in the evening reduced the need for lamp oil. And while we use electricity instead of lamp oil, this argument is still used today.

      However, when you consider that lighting is becoming more and more efficient and most of our personal energy consumption now goes to heating and cooling, the picture changes. Since the Earth takes time to warm and cool each day, the daily temperature cycle lags behind the sun by a few hours. Getting up early in the winter just means more energy spent heating your home and office, and working late in the day during summer means high A/C bills.

      Plus, most people want some daylight time outside the typical 8-5 work window. There's no reason to line up the work day with daylight hours; these days, most people are cooped up in office buildings and don't really care whether it's light or dark out. And commuting during sunrise or sunset is dangerous, so that's another good reason to offset the workday from the sun cycle.

      Finally, studies have shown that a period of bright light, preferably sunlight, is important for our health during the winter months. So yet again it makes no sense to align the workday with the daylight cycle, since commuters at northern latitudes only see a bit of dawn and dusk during their commute and are stuck indoors during the bright part of the day.

      While it may be a bit extreme, I think the ideal solution is to start the workday a couple hours past sunrise in the winter and a couple hours before sunrise in the summer. You'll be active during the warmest hours of winter and cooler hours in summer, you'll have free time during daylight hours year round, you'll commute to work in bright sunlight during the winter, and you'll avoid staring into the sun while commuting most of the year. Of course, nobody would want to a several-hour time change, so it would be better to spread it out: Lose a minute every night for half the year, then gain a minute each night for the other half. In addition, there could also be a couple jumps during the year to help avoid commuting at dawn/dusk. Getting people to accept waking up before dawn during summer and having sunset in the middle of the afternoon during winter might still take some work, but I think it would be safer, healthier, and more efficient for everyone.

      • by magarity (164372) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @10:16PM (#39322137)

        As the summary mentions, Ben's argument was basically that "early to bed and early to rise" saved energy.

        Yes, but note that while he's saying go to bed early, he also admits to not getting home and to bed until 3AM and notes that he never sees the sun before noon. If anything, I like him more after reading that bit.

      • by pavon (30274) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @11:26PM (#39322567)

        While it may be a bit extreme, I think the ideal solution is to start the workday a couple hours past sunrise in the winter and a couple hours before sunrise in the summer. You'll be active during the warmest hours of winter and cooler hours in summer, you'll have free time during daylight hours year round,

        No you would be cooped up in an office during the warmest hours of winter and the cooler hours in summer. All your free time would be during the hottest hours of summer and the coldest hours of winter. That sounds like a good way for office buildings to save heating/cooling expenses, but would increase residential expenses, and make it less enjoyable to spend your free time outside.

        For someone in the warmer latitudes, what I would like to see is the opposite. Leave winter hours as they are, and then shift the clock an hour later in the summer. That way you spend the hottest hours in the office, it will have cooled off by the time you are getting ready for bed, and you have time in the morning when it is cooler to spend outside before going to work.

      • by Mr Z (6791)

        While it may be a bit extreme, I think the ideal solution is to start the workday a couple hours past sunrise in the winter and a couple hours before sunrise in the summer. You'll be active during the warmest hours of winter and cooler hours in summer, you'll have free time during daylight hours year round, you'll commute to work in bright sunlight during the winter, and you'll avoid staring into the sun while commuting most of the year.

        Hmm, if you do that, I'll move to Michigan in the winter, but go south

    • Tomorrow? (Score:3, Funny)

      by sycodon (149926)

      Wait...what? Tomorrow?

      Why didn't anyone tell me?

      Shit! I have to get to bed!

    • by flyneye (84093)

      Let's not forget his contributions to philosophy;

      "God gave us beer because he loves us and wants us to be happy"

      Of course there were others about saving pennies, rising early and having a violent overthrow of the government every few years or so.
      Gems, every one of them.

  • if he did (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    may he rot in hell ...

    oh, that's right, he's in Philly... nevermind

  • DST is good. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I like going home after work and still having daylight. I can go out for a run, have a picnic, and not be fearful of vampires.

  • by bmo (77928) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @08:37PM (#39321387)

    I always await DST with bated breath every year.

    And I rue its passing every fall

    We are so far east in the Eastern time zone, which goes all the way from Western Indiana to Maine, that we should actually be in the Atlantic time zone with the Canadian Maritime provinces.

    --
    GMO

    • by Yoda's Mum (608299) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @08:43PM (#39321465)

      Sounds like your area just needs to fix its timezone, or failing that happening just adjust the locale business hours to something more appropriate to the region.

    • by icebrain (944107)

      I always await DST with bated breath every year.

      And I rue its passing every fall

      I live down south, and I still love DST. It maximizes the time I have for doing things outside after work. I'm at work before sunrise year-round, DST or not, so earlier daylight is useless to me. If I wasn't hamstrung by other societal stuff (damn bankers and their hours...), I'd structure my day so I'm going to bed about an hour after sunset year-round. That happens in the summer, but not so much in the winter--I'd be getting to work at 0230.

    • by swalve (1980968)
      I agree, that must suck balls. I live in Chicago, pretty much as far east in the Central time zone as there is, and remember fondly a vacation in Louisville. It was light out until after 10pm. Delightful.
  • When? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by KlomDark (6370) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @08:39PM (#39321407) Homepage Journal

    Are we going to abolish the stupidity of the concept of Daylight Savings Time? It saves no daylight.

    There will be a higher percentage of car crashes tomorrow due to people being awake an hour earlier. Then in fall, there will be higher suicides when there is suddenly, with no logical explanation to your circadian cycle, dramatically less sunlight.

    This is an abomination and really has a horrible effect on me and other each year.

    It needs to go away with other anachronisms. I mortally detest it.

    • Re:When? (Score:5, Funny)

      by enoz (1181117) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @08:56PM (#39321573)

      Car accidents and suicides? Last I heard the Daylight Savings haters biggest complaint was that the extra hour of sunlight would fade their curtains.

      • Re:When? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by AK Marc (707885) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @10:00PM (#39322033)
        When the President of the United States publicly defends DST as saving energy due to reduced lighting (from coal, something we have enough of and don't import), while the truth is more energy is spend under DST (mostly oil, which we mostly import), I have to wonder if DST isn't just a oil company conspiracy. Energy use is increased, as people are more likely to take an evening shopping trip under DST. And the economic stimulus of more unfunded spending is exactly what we need more of, right?
    • Re:When? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by icebrain (944107) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @08:57PM (#39321601)

      Are we going to abolish the stupidity of the concept of Daylight Savings Time? It saves no daylight.

      It is an effective way to keep the daylight hours after work, when productive things can be done, rather than before work when nothing useful can be done because you're just going to have to go to work in a short time. We're stuck with the kludgy method of flipping clocks back and forth because we, as a society, are still wedded to the stupid 8-to-5 workday and the bankers that hold everyone else by the balls with their hours.

      Full disclosure: I love DST and wish we'd stay on it all year. Light early in the morning is useless to me; I'm already at work in a windowless office by the time the sun comes up. I like having a lot of time to do things after work, and I don't get that at all in the winter--the sun's setting when I leave. If DST went on all year, I'd at least have a little light to do things first.

      • Re:When? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by zippthorne (748122) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @09:13PM (#39321705) Journal

        But so would keeping "summer hours" at various businesses. 9-5 in the winter? 8-4 in the summer! See how easy that is? No need to take something that has a real, astronomical meaning, and fiddle with it completely arbitrarily for no real benefit at all.

        In fact, the greatest benefit we could get would probably be to encourage businesses to vary their working times to spread out the "rush hour" traffic. This would reduce congestion on the roads (it's not strictly linear, so even a small change could reap huge rewards), a net win for both commuters and the environment. I know that an extra half hour of real time at each end of the day spent "not commuting" would be more valuable to me than 20 "extra" hours of daylight that we got by shifting our troubles by the same amount.

        • i used to think daylight savings haters were dumb till i heard this idea. this is about 50 times better in every way.
        • by swalve (1980968)
          It is way easier to change the clocks, especially now, than it is to try and remember the changing times for every organization we deal with each year. It would be insanity.
          • I strongly disagree. It might have been easier at one point, but right now? We all deal with clocks constantly; there's no end to software hiccups, and people still forget to reset their clocks and get everything wrong. Switching clocks is the greater insanity. Varied hours are something you can get used to easily. Shift workers do it.

          • really?
            I have no idea when any business opens or closes anymore without consulting every business's website. Truly there is no real consistency. Sure you can guess that most every business opens by 10am and close after 4pm, but I'm surprised how often I'm wrong about each one too! I have to admit that stores in malls tend to keep similar hours, but that isn't 100% either.

            So many business open anywhere from 7:30am to 10am in my area, and I find that if I drop by thinking some business must be open, I'm often

      • by KlomDark (6370)

        I'd go for that. Just the constant flipping back and forth gets me. Grew up in Eastern Indiana (Fort Wayne) where they didn't do it (Back then anyway), so I think it messes with me worse because of it.

      • Wish I had mod points. Parent sums up my feelings EXACTLY.

      • Re:When? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by king neckbeard (1801738) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @09:36PM (#39321867)
        Adjusting work hours seasonally would be more effective, and then we wouldn't have to worry about confusion from the result of the change. Even better, the changes could be more gradual and could present a change greater than an hour if that is beneficial.

        Also, saying that we should stay on DST all year is idiotic. We should just do things an hour earlier.
      • by antdude (79039)

        Ditto. I love DST and I wished we could keep it forever. Even my visitors agree according to my http://aqfl.net/node/5466 [aqfl.net] poll. ;)

    • It is stupid I agree. Another solution would be just specify the start of the work day relative to sunrise. Ie we work from sunrise + 1 to sunrise + 9. That way the sun would always have risen when you go to work and you'd have at least 1 hour a day to get your vitamin. The current system doesn't work in Canada or europe (and further north). For most people you wake up in the winter and the sun is just starting to rise, you get to work. By the time you leave work the sun has set. You go home in the dark. Th

      • Another solution would be just specify the start of the work day relative to sunrise.

        That solution is totally inane. In the winter you would end up in a windowless office the only 8 hours of the day that the sun is actually out.

        You might as well do it the other way around if you're going to do it that way: Make work end six hours before sunset.

        • You're not like that already? I always need headlights for the drive home during the winter. I actually take it as a sign of approaching spring that I start to squint into the sunset on the drive home.

    • It needs to go away with other anachronisms. I mortally detest it.

      In the greater scheme, it's a small insult - perhaps unnecessary, but I'd rather get rid of coal fired power plants, nasty chemicals in food packaging and any number of other things first.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 11, 2012 @08:40PM (#39321421)

    This is really bad. I woke up this morning and noticed that is was noon instead of 11am like it should be. They fucking stole an hour from my life! Sure some might say I'll get it back next time we adjust the clock, but what if I don't make it to that time? It's gone, this is completely horrible.

  • by jroysdon (201893) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @08:40PM (#39321423) Homepage

    Sleep-journal.com [sleep-journal.com]: "Results: There was a significant increase in accidents for the Monday immediately following the spring shift to DST (t=1.92, P=0.034). There was also a significant increase in number of accidents on the Sunday of the fall shift from DST (P0.002)."

    Get rid of DST. Arizona has it right (no DST). Doesn't help that the whole world doesn't even follow the DST change at the same time.

  • by gestalt_n_pepper (991155) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @08:40PM (#39321427)

    This "electricity" is merely a fad and will come to nothing. Ha, and those bifocal things will cause the innocent wearer to become cross-eyed. Such dangerous radicals are not to be suffered in the King's lands!

  • That is when summer time starts for the vast majority of sufferers.

  • Here in Saskatchewan we are pretty much the only province in Canada that doesn't switch time in regards to DST. So in effect we are like Arizona and don't switch.

  • by supersloshy (1273442) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @08:45PM (#39321477)

    I read a quote somewhere (Google says it's of Navajo origin) that changed the way I thought about daylight savings time. It went something like this:

    "Daylight Savings Time is the equivalent of cutting off the bottom of a blanket and sewing it on to the top because your blanket is too short."

  • CGP Grey (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Gideon Wells (1412675) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @08:49PM (#39321521)

    C.G.P. Grey did a swell video on this subject: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=84aWtseb2-4 [youtube.com]

    Frankly, the system as is a chaotic mess. I find myself more and more often tempted to state HH:MM p/a GMT. It just seems like something that was good in theory about two hundred years ago, but now? Confusion. There is a reason standard time for trains considered such a great advance. DST now seems like a step backwards.

    • I find myself more and more often tempted to state HH:MM p/a GMT.

      Ah, yes - GMT (or UTC) as a worldwide standard for everyday living - the idea beloved of a cadre of Unix folks, but which will never even be taken seriously (or given any thought at all, really) by anyone else.

      • Re:CGP Grey (Score:5, Funny)

        by Gideon Wells (1412675) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @10:25PM (#39322197)

        Well, to be honest the hipster in me has also considered going by the Zulu standard just to confuse even the GMT/UTC supporters.

      • by j-beda (85386)

        I find myself more and more often tempted to state HH:MM p/a GMT.

        Ah, yes - GMT (or UTC) as a worldwide standard for everyday living - the idea beloved of a cadre of Unix folks, but which will never even be taken seriously (or given any thought at all, really) by anyone else.

        Well, China seems to handle a single time zone, though it geographically should be split into five: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Time_in_China [wikipedia.org]

        They probably would be happy for the entire world to adopt the same time zone.

  • low standards (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ILongForDarkness (1134931) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @08:57PM (#39321603)

    The standard for "invention" has dropped a long way hasn't it. The whole "getting up with the sunrise" idea from antiquity was the original dailylight savings time. It was only once people started working in dungeons ...er ... factories that schedules started being different from work when you can see what you're doing. You can't forget something and then remember it and replace it with a less precise system and call it an invention.

    • We could be doing a 24 hour schedule but we still operate businesses and offices from 9-5. Why? I see no advantage.

      • We could be doing a 24 hour schedule but we still operate businesses and offices from 9-5. Why? I see no advantage.

        Yes, but it depends on how much synchronization businesses and customers that work together need.

        For online businesses, a 24 hour schedule is no problem, as the customer interaction happens instantly thanks to the wonders of computers, even if it the transaction sits there for half a day afterwards, until a human can process it.

        For businesses where two actual people must communicate or

        • by Macrat (638047)

          If three companies must interact via humans, even if it is A with B and then B with C, they all must have compatible hours, and so on. That leads to common working hours, 9-5.

          And when those 3 companies are in 3 different countries? How are the hours compatible then?

  • by russotto (537200) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @09:02PM (#39321631) Journal

    It's pretty clear Franklin was trolling big time with that letter.

  • by wjsteele (255130) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @09:12PM (#39321697)

    Franklin is also associated with other questionable ideas, including bifocals, lightning rods, electric current flowing from the positive to negative terminal, leaking official documents to fan opposition, and an independent United States of America

    I didn't realize he postulated (or invented) the flow of electrons incorrectly!

    FYI, just to clarify for all you non electrically inclined folks out there, electrons flow from the negative terminal (where a surplus of electrons are, hense the negative charge) to the positive terminal (where there is a lack of electrons.)

    Bill

    • by nbauman (624611)

      It's not too late to change.
      http://xkcd.com/567/ [xkcd.com]

    • by aXis100 (690904) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @10:18PM (#39322145)

      He didnt get it wrong - "Electric Current" is an arbitary definition.

      The fact that it does not match up with the most typical case - electrons - is only an inconvenience. There are other circumstances where the flow of charge matches the direction of electric current, such as with positive ions in an electrolyte, so either way you're going to have issues.

  • by Deadstick (535032) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @09:23PM (#39321777)

    If you think productivity will go down tomorrow, wait and see what happens on the 22nd. That's when the new Angry Birds comes out.

  • Nope... (Score:3, Funny)

    by matt_gaia (228110) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @09:35PM (#39321859)

    Obviously, Ben Franklin didn't invent DST. Bobby Boucher's mother did... Ben Franklin is THE DEVIL!

  • by coldmist (154493) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @09:40PM (#39321883) Homepage

    No.

    My wife hates DST, so she looked into the actual law.

    Here it is: The federal US government sets the days that the DST transition happens on. It's up to the individual states to go on DST or not.

    So, you could work at a state level to just have your state not participate in it.

    That's it.

  • DST Graph (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pgn674 (995941) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @09:45PM (#39321921) Homepage

    If you want a visual explanation of the purpose and result of daylight saving time, check out this graph: Picasa Web Albums - Paul Nickerson [google.com]

    The purpose, as I understand it, is to make the sun not rise super early against the clock during the summer. The effect is that it reduces the range of sunrise times, while increasing the range of sunset times. In a way, it normalizes sunrises while amplifying sunsets.

    Oh, and while we're at it, during a non-DST period, if the time zones were evenly split and straight with no regard to human geographic borders, then at the middle of the time zone, 12:00 (noon) would be the time that astronomical noon is (when the sun is highest in the sky), varying by about 20 minutes before and after noon. If you average all the astronomical noons over the course of a year in the middle of a time zone, then astronomical noon is at precisely 12:00. During DST, astronomical noon is moved to 1:00 pm (13:00)

  • Singapore (Score:5, Interesting)

    by skribe (26534) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @10:05PM (#39322065) Homepage
    Singaporeans liked the concept of Daylight Saving so much that in 1982 they moved to it permanently. Geographically they should be UTC+7 but they currently work off UTC+8.

    </ useless trivia >
    • Re:Singapore (Score:4, Interesting)

      by isorox (205688) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @11:28PM (#39322581) Homepage Journal

      Singaporeans liked the concept of Daylight Saving so much that in 1982 they moved to it permanently. Geographically they should be UTC+7 but they currently work off UTC+8.

      </ useless trivia >

      I can sort of see the justification for daylight "saving" nearer the poles, but for equatorial countries where the length of day varies by about 10 minutes it makes no sense. Pick a time and stick with it.

      There's plenty of anomalies with time zones. In December, Moscow was 2 hours ahead of Israel despite being pretty much the same longitude. Spain is 1 hour ahead of the UK despite parts of it geographically fitting into UK-1.

      Gaza has 2 spring forwards and 2 fall backs a year. At some points in the year, Israel, 1000 miles east of greece, is an hour behind.

      And now we've got a confusing situation of New York being 4 hours behind London, rather than 5. Due to travel (in the u.s this weekend, back in the uk af the end of the month) I get to have my clocks go forward twice this year, and last year I missed out on the benefit of clocks going backwards as I was somewhere out east -- Israel or India or somewhere (you know you travel too much when you can't remember what countries you've been to in a given year).

  • Back in the days of Ben Franklin DST may have saved some candles, oil (for lamps) or gas.
    In the early 20th century including both wars It saved electricity.
    In the 21st century however its just stupid.

    These days the majority of electricity is used for many other purposes besides lighting. The change to non-incandescent bulbs makes a significant power saving however.

    Its no longer a 9-5 world. Many facilities have to operate 24 hours a day.

    I work night shift (you insensitive clods)

    In fall I end up having to wo

  • Wasn't it Kim Jong-il who invented DST?

    S

  • by mjjochen (638603) on Monday March 12, 2012 @12:16AM (#39322907) Homepage
    Since many of us are interested in shifting clocks to allow for a more productive work day, and save lighting expenses, I propose a new twist to this system: the Workweek Saving Day. It is a very simple concept, really. Each Saturday night, instead of it becoming Sunday at the stroke of midnight, it becomes Monday. How awesome is that?! This way, we can all provide one more productive day of work to our beloved employers and do busy busy things to make the big cog-wheel turn. Come on li'l gipper, ya with me?!
  • by grantspassalan (2531078) on Monday March 12, 2012 @12:54AM (#39323089)

    An old Indian chief once said that only the United States government believes that by cutting a foot off the top of a blanket and sewing it on the bottom, you get a longer blanket.

  • Read the letter. Franklin was joking.

    DST is a stupid idea.

  • by kikito (971480) on Monday March 12, 2012 @05:43AM (#39324247) Homepage

    He also invented internet, socks and parachutes. All while fighting ninjas.

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