Saving the Daylight
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Who Knew?
A Brief History of Daylight Saving Time (Summer Time)

from David Prerau's Saving the Daylight

Benjamin Franklin: Benjamin Franklin, living in Paris, first conceived the notion of rising closer to sunrise to make better use of sunlight. Imagine, he said, how many candles could be saved if people awakened earlier. He never proposed putting the clocks forward, but he whimsically suggested firing cannons in each square at dawn "to wake the sluggards and open their eyes to their true interest."

William Willett (1857-1915)

William Willett: British builder William Willett was up early each morning for his daily pre-breakfast horseback ride. He lamented that few people were enjoying the "best part of a summer day". Reflecting on this distressing waste of daylight, in 1905 a revolutionary idea came to him: putting the clocks forward in summer to save daylight. This would take advantage of the bright beautiful mornings and give more light in the evening, and yet not change anyone’s normal waking hour. Thus was born the idea of daylight saving time.

DST in Parliament: William Willett first proposed his idea in the British Parliament as the Daylight Saving Bill of 1908, and he fought for years to introduce the concept in Britain. There was very strong opinion on both sides. Among the many supporters were Winston Churchill, who gave a rousing pro-DST speech at Guildhall, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and astronomer Sir Robert Ball. But there was strong opposition from farmers, many scientists, and others. Willett was relentless in his pursuit of daylight saving time (later called summer time), but repeated attempts to pass a bill in Parliament all failed. He died never seeing his idea come to fruition.

World War I: During World War I, DST was first adopted in Kaiser Wilhelm's Germany, which was quickly followed by Britain and by European countries on both sides of the war, and eventually, America. Daylight replaced artificial lighting and saved precious fuel for the war effort.

Post–World War I: Britain continued summer time each year after the War ended, but many countries discontinued its use. American farmers defeated urban dwellers and President Woodrow Wilson to get DST repealed, returning the U. S. to “God's Time.” Spotty and inconsistent use of daylight saving time in the United States and around the world caused problems, unusual incidents and, occasionally, tragedies. For example, disregard of a change to DST caused a major train wreck in France, killing two and injuring many.

World War II: All combatants on both sides quickly adopted DST to save vital energy resources for the War. The United Kingdom extended summer for the entire year and later added double summer time (two hours advanced) in the summers. The U.S. enacted FDR's year-round DST law just 40 days after Pearl Harbor was attacked.

After World War II: When World War II ended, some countries abandoned their wartime DST while others continued it into the postwar years. Britain reverted to its prewar policy of summer DST, except during a fuel crisis in 1947 when it temporarily utilized double DST.

Chaos in the U. S. and the High Cost of Non-Uniform DST, 1960s: Widespread confusion was created when each U. S. locality could start and end DST as it desired. One year, 23 different pairs of DST start and end dates were used in Iowa alone. And on one West Virginia bus route, passengers had to change their watches seven times in 35 miles! The situation led to millions of dollars of costs to several industries, especially transportation and communications. Extra railroad timetables alone cost the equivalent today of over $12 million per year.

BST, 1968-70: The U.K. experimented with year-round summer time, called British Standard Time (BST), for three years, from 1968 through 1970. Opposition from Northerners, farmers, and others led to the end of BST, even though some studies showed economic advantages and decreases in road accidents and energy costs.

Oil Embargo, 1973: The Arab Oil Embargo caused the first prolonged peacetime energy shortage in the United States. President Richard Nixon and Congress quickly established year-round daylight saving time to save energy. The U. S. Department of Transportation found that with almost no cost as compared to other energy conservation options, DST reduced the national electrical load in the U.S. by over 1%, saving 3,000,000 barrels of oil each month. After the crisis was over, the U.S. reverted to six months of DST, from May through October. This period was extended in 1986 to include April.

Proposals for Single/Double Summer Time, late 1980s-present: Harmonization with Europe’s time was proposed by having summer time in the winter and double summer time in the summer, sometimes called Single/Double Summer Time. Favored by many businesses and others, studies showed it would reduce road deaths and injuries. Scottish MPs led opposition, and no bill ever passed

Uniformity in Europe, 1996: After many years of non-uniformity of DST policy in Europe, especially between the Continent and the U.K., the European Union including the U.K. adopted a summer time period from the last Sunday in March to the last Sunday in October.

Extension in the U. S., 2005, 2007: As part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, the U. S. DST period was extended by about one month, commencing 2007. October 29, 2006 will be the last time that the U.S. and U.K. both move their clocks on the same date. After that, the U.S. will commence DST two or three weeks before the U.K. and end one week later.

Parliamentary Debate, 2005-present: In 2005, Lord Simon Tanlaw introduced in the House of Lords the Lighter Evenings (Experiment) Bill, which would advance time an additional hour in summer and winter (giving summer time in the winter and double summer time in the summer) for a trial period of three years. The bill applied to England, with the Scottish Parliament, the National Assembly in Wales, and the Northern Ireland Assembly given the power to "opt-in" to the change with respect to their areas. The Bill was passed by the House of Lords in May 2006, but did not reach a vote in the House of Commons. Later in 2006, Tim Yeo MP drew second place in the Private Members Bill ballot, and introduced a similar bill, the Energy Saving (Daylight) Bill. Second Reading on the bill was on January 26, 2007, but the Government allowed opponents to talk the the Bill out, so that it ran out of Parliamentary time. In 2008, David Kidney MP brought up the issue again in Parliament, but the Government remained unconvinced of the case for change. In late 2010, Rebecca Harris MP introduced The Daylight Saving Bill, which called on the Government to conduct a full analysis of the potential costs and benefits of advancing the clock one hour in winter and summer, and then carry out a three year trial of Single/Double Summer Time if appropriate. The Bill received strong support from environmental, motoring, and tourism groups, but opponents, especially in Scotland, were concerned over dangers and problems caused by darker mornings. The Bill passed its second reading by 92 votes to 10 in December 2010, and proponents and opponents argued its merits throughout 2011. In January 2012, a group of MPs combined to stop the Bill, speaking at length to ensure that the Bill ran out of time.

Numerous Other Effects: Daylight saving time has affected an immense breadth of people, places, policies, and activities. For a deeper glimpse into daylight saving time's wide reaching impacts, view the Index

Current Observance of Daylight Saving Time

Worldwide: William Willett would be happy to know that daylight saving time is now employed in about seventy countries around the world, including almost every major industrialized nation. It affects well over a billion people each year.

In several other countries, there is current debate about adopting DST. Sunrises, sunsets, and day lengths of countries near the equator do not vary much during the year, but even in such countries DST is sometimes utilized, especially for energy conservation.

United Kingdom and European Union: A summer time period of seven months is utilized:

1 a.m. UTC/GMT on the last Sunday in March
1 a.m. UTC/GMT on the last Sunday in October

The Summer Time Period in the United Kingdom and the European Union:

For 2005, from Sunday March 27 to Sunday October 30.
For 2006, from Sunday March 26 to Sunday October 29.
For 2007, from Sunday March 25 to Sunday October 28.
For 2008, from Sunday March 30 to Sunday October 26.
For 2009, from Sunday March 29 to Sunday October 25.
For 2010, from Sunday March 28 to Sunday October 31.
For 2011, from Sunday March 27 to Sunday October 30.
For 2012, from Sunday March 25 to Sunday October 28.
For 2013, from Sunday March 31 to Sunday October 27.
For 2014, from Sunday March 30 to Sunday October 26.
For 2015, from Sunday March 29 to Sunday October 25.

United States: In the United States from 1987 through 2006, a daylight saving time period of almost seven months was in effect: from 2 a.m. on the first Sunday in April to 2 a.m. on the last Sunday in October.

A law passed in 2005 extended the U.S. daylight saving time period by about one month, beginning in 2007. Thus for 2007 and beyond, the daylight saving time period is:

2 a.m. on the second Sunday in March
2 a.m. on the first Sunday in November

Currently, the entire country observes this DST period of almost eight months, except for the states of Arizona and Hawaii, and the U. S. insular areas of Puerto Rico, the U. S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, and Guam--all of which have chosen to stay on standard time all year.

The DST Period in the United States:

For 2005, from Sunday April 3 to Sunday October 30.
For 2006, from Sunday April 2 to Sunday October 29.
For 2007, from Sunday March 11 to Sunday November 4.
For 2008, from Sunday March 9 to Sunday November 2.
For 2009, from Sunday March 8 to Sunday November 1.
For 2010, from Sunday March 14 to Sunday November 7.
For 2011, from Sunday March 13 to Sunday November 6.
For 2012, from Sunday March 11 to Sunday November 4.
For 2013, from Sunday March 10 to Sunday November 3.
For 2014, from Sunday March 9 to Sunday November 2.
For 2015, from Sunday March 8 to Sunday November 1.

Author David Prerau continues to collect information on interesting DST effects, incidents, and anecdotes. He is also very happy to receive any comments or questions related to DST and time in general. Please email

For further information on Saving the Daylight, email
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All material © David Prerau 2012