Daylight Saving Time: What We Gain When We Lose an Hour

It's been called the fourth dimension and it's boggled thinkers for millennia. We're talking about time, and just in case you weren't aware of this already, we're losing an hour of it this weekend thanks to Daylight Saving Time (DST). How and when did people come up with this curious system? Believe it or not, Benjamin Franklin first proposed such an idea back in 1784 as a way to cut down on the use of candles.

Despite Franklin's foresight, more than a century went by before the idea took hold. First off, it's important to note that countries didn't begin standardizing their time until the development of railroads made it necessary in the 19th century, according to The World that Trade Created by Kenneth Pomeranz.

As the California Energy Commission explains, it took a world war to push countries into adopting a DST system. In an effort to save precious energy resources during World War I, the United States (as well as several other countries) switched to DST. It ended with the war, reappeared again for World War II and then disappeared once again. For the ensuing decades, some states observed it, while others did not. This created understandable confusion until 1966, when Congress passed the Uniform Time Act.

During the oil crisis of the 1970s, Congress temporarily extended DST to save even more energy. When comparing the difference, a study concluded that DST does indeed save energy but it also saves lives. It reasoned that by having people drive home from work in daylight, traffic accidents and reports of crime (more rampant in darkness) were reduced.

Despite the uniformity we now enjoy, some areas take their prerogative to opt out, including Hawaii and most of Arizona. You've got to give them props for their rebellious spirit.

Got some time? Take a look at these: How did ancient civilizations use sundials to tell time? How Time Works How Pendulum Clocks Work How Atomic Clocks Work