Daylight Savings Time: Turn clocks ahead one hour as DST begins

SUNDAY, MARCH 8: It’s time for spring—or, at least, to “spring” clocks forward by one hour, as Daylight Savings Time begins. First proposed by New Zealand’s George Vernon Hudson in 1895, the concept of Daylight Savings Time was originally proposed to utilize after-work hours for leisure activities with extra daylight. In a practical sense, Germany and Austria-Hungary used DST in 1916 to conserve coal during wartime; Britain and many of its allies soon followed suit. Though DST has fallen in and out of favor for decades, it is still widely used today throughout Europe and most of the United States. (Wikipedia has details.)

Care to start a debate with friends? Americans like to name Benjamin Franklin as the first proponent of Daylight Savings Time, because of a satirical essay he published while serving as an American envoy to Paris in 1784. Among other things, he urged the ringing of church bells and the firing of canons to get Parisians out of bed earlier each morning. However, historians now say that’s not the same as proposing Daylight Savings Time, which refers to a public shift in timekeeping. The 18th-century world had no concept of nationally standardized timekeeping, as we do today. Thus, many contemporary scholars don’t credit Ben with this particular innovation. (Want more ammunition on this point? Wikipedia offers more.)

Still, many question its value in 21st century society, and arguments are made for the disruptions it causes in sleep patterns, traffic accidents, health issues and business.

Not all states in America practice Daylight Savings Time—Arizona and Hawaii have both opted to keep standard time—and currently, several states are in the midst of deciding whether or not to keep Daylight Savings Time. A bill in Washington is proposing the end of DST in that northwestern state, and five other states have similar pending legislation. (Check out the story, here.) Around the globe, Europe still relies heavily on DST, while Asia, Australia and Africa largely use standard time.


Daylight Savings Time: Spring forward! (But does it work?)

SUNDAY, MARCH 9: “Spring forward” with your clocks, because Daylight Savings Time begins today.

With varying start dates and times worldwide, DST is anything but uniform—and it has the unstable history to match. Despite variances, the concept of seasonally adjusting time for daylight hours has ancient roots: early Roman society used their water clocks to increase the number of minutes in daytime hours, so that day length would seem longer during the summertime. Today, the most commonly observed Daylight Savings Time begins in March. (Find official dates through 2020 from the Astronomical Applications Department of the U.S. Naval Observatory.) The practice is most widely observed by the majority of North America and Europe.

The modern notion of daylight saving was proposed more than a century ago, in 1895, by New Zealand entomologist George Vernon Hudson. Hudson argued that adjusting clocks would provide shift workers with more leisure time after work hours and, on a practical level, would cut back on the use of electricity (Wikipedia has details.)

This resourcefulness was utilized in 1916, when Germany and its World War I allies implemented DST; several nations across the globe adopted it soon after. DST fell out of popularity after the war, but was implemented again during World War II and at varying times during the decades. The energy crisis of the 1970s carved a permanent spot for DST in many of the world’s calendars.


Today, the energy-saving benefits of DST are highly debated, as are its economic effect and impact on public safety. Studies have shown that the sleep disruption caused by DST, along with the interruption of circadian rhythm, can actually have negative health effects; the cost to reprogram everything from computer programs to medical devices has shown to be cost-inhibitive. Still, many recreational programs and some businesses have reported increased sales due to the hourly changes of DST.

The Wikipedia article on this debate lists dozens of reports and counter-reports from researchers, government agencies and other groups.


In the United States, Hawai’i and most of Arizona don’t observe the time shifts of Daylight Savings—and as more citizens debate the pros and cons of DST, it’s likely that more states will soon follow suit.

In Tennessee, the time-shift may see its final operation today, as a bill to eliminate DST in the state has cleared a first step toward passage in the General Assembly—and, if passed, will take effect in July. In Kentucky, a lawmaker introduced a similar bill, and that bill is now being considered by a House committee. The Salt Lake Tribune recently published an article on the same topic, reporting on an effort to gather public opinion on new legislation. And, a proposal to dump DST in Idaho is in the news as well.