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.