Why do the clocks change?


Every year, twice a year, people must change their clocks to an hour early and then an hour late. At the end of the month this month, October 2021, the clocks will go forward once again, ending the season of daylight saving hours. But why do we do this? It is something that has happened my entire life and while I questioned it enough, this question didn’t burn me enough that I looked into it. Now though, I find myself wanting to know the history of this strange yet completely accepted custom.

There is really no scientific reason why we turn back the clock. The real reason is because people were aware of the amount of time that we waste during the summer by going back into our homes when the sun was still out. We were wasting valuable time in the daylight, when we could be doing productive work. The notion of moving the clocks backwards and forwards became a thing in the 1916 Summer Time Act, which came about because of a builder by the name of William Willet. He wrote about this in a proposal pamphlet that he wrote in 1907 called ‘The Waste of Daylight’. While it was first put into place during the first world war, Willet wasn’t the first to actually propose that we were wasting daylight hours in the summer. This honour goes to one of the founding fathers of the united states of America, Benjamin Franklin. He mentioned this in a joking letter written to the editor of the Journal of Paris in 1784, saying that Parisians should be woken an hour early to the sound of church bells and cannon fire. But this way of efficiantly using all of the daylight of the summer is not the only way that has ever been used to make the most of the long summer days.

The Romans actually had a system where in which they worked for longer periods. They didn’t work for more hours however. This was done not by setting the clocks forwards or backwards but rather changing the length of the hour. The length of an hour was not a set structure but rather changed with the amount of sunlight that was recieved. Each day was divided into sixteen segments, with the daylight hours being divided up into twelve sections, called hours. This meant that on the summer solstice, the hours would have been seventy-five minutes long, while on the winter solstice, the hours would have been fourty-five minutes long. This time was tracked using an early sundial, which was an effective method of keeping track of time and still is to this day. It is not used however as we have found more specific and acurrate methods of determining the time. 

Human beings always seem to find ways to make more time, whether it be by making the process more efficient or even to push the clock back. With each and every day, the world seems to become faster and we seem to spend more time working. Hopefully, you take some time to slow down and take a break from the fast pace every once in a while. 


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