Daylight Savings: Why Do We Spring Forward and Fall Back?


Kai Heister, Science and Technology Writer

Everyone loves it when one day in early November time falls back an hour and we gain an extra hour of sleep. This change in our clocks is called Daylight Saving time, or DST, and it occurred on November first. Although this is something that has been observed around the world since the 1970s, do you actually know why and where it is practiced?
Mentions of the idea of Daylight Saving Time have been traced back to many different ancient civilizations that adjusted their schedules to fit the sun’s patterns, and usually dividing daylight into twelve hours. Because there was more daylight in spring and summer, the hours in spring and summer were longer than in autumn and winter. More specifically, Ancient Rome used water clocks to measure time, but they had different scales for different months of the year. In Rome, hours lasted about 40 minutes on the winter solstice, and about 75 minutes on the summer solstice. However this flexible schedule with time was replaced for a more regular one in the 14th Century. However, some groups today still use unequal hours to optimize their amount of daylight.
Founding Father Benjamin Franklin proposed the idea of DST thousands of years later, in 1784. Contrary to popular belief, Benjamin Franklin did not invent the idea of saving daylight. In fact the statement itself was intended to be a joke. He simply suggested that Parisians wake up earlier in the morning in order to waste less oil in oil lamps.
However, the concept of daylight saving time was not seriously considered until 1895. An entomologist from New Zealand named George Hudson, came up with today’s idea of Daylight Saving Time. He proposed a two-hour time jump so he’d have more sunny hours after his job to go hunting for bugs in summer.
Seven years later, in 1902, a British builder named William Willett also hit on the idea while out horseback riding, without knowing of Hudson at all. He proposed it to England’s government as a way to avoid his country wasting daylight hours. His proposal was supported by Winston Churchill and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, however it was rejected by the British government at first. William Willett kept pushing for the concept to become law up until he died in the year 1915.
In 1916, which was two years into World War I, the German government started coming up with ways to save precious energy and daylight. They came across the idea of Daylight Saving, and decided to implement it. Soon, almost every other country that fought in World War I also decided to use Daylight Saving. The United States implemented the concept on March 9, 1918, where Congress declared its first law to save energy and daylight. Not only did the Standard Time Act save energy and daylight, but it defined the multiple time zones in the U.S.
DST is observed almost all around the world. There are only a few exceptions. These are Hawaii and several parts of Arizona. The Navajo Nation of northeastern Arizona, however, does actually use DST. But, the Hopi Reservation which is entirely surrounded by the Navajo Nation, does not. This leads to a lot of confusion of time in the state of Arizona.
The reason certain places don’t use DST is because it does not apply to them. In places like Arizona and Hawaii, where they are very close to the Equator, it is warm and sunny all year round. In fact, most people in Arizona prefer going out at night as it is significantly cooler. DST is actually considered a big inconvenience. So if places all around the world don’t need DST, it is really necessary? Rebecca Hartwick ‘23 says: “Not really, if a lot of places don’t use it, and the energy it saved isn’t even used anymore, it’s purpose is rendered null.” Sue Kampert, the Human Dynamics and Development Teacher agreed, commenting: “I don’t think it’s necessary, and I think we could be more effective without it. I know there are two states that don’t use it, and i think that should be universally implemented.” Emma Slease ‘23 disagreed, saying: “I don’t think it’s a necessity anymore, but I think it could still be beneficial for a lot of people around the world, which makes it useful.”