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Daylight Savings: What is it? Why Do We Have it?

The season of fall brings a lot of changes. Fall brings cooler weather, new fashion, leaves changing color, and longer nights. For those in the United States, fall also signifies the end of daylight savings time.

About 70 countries around the world also practice daylight savings, a concept originally invented by Benjamin Franklin in the 1700s. Some say daylight savings is pointless. Others enjoy the extra hour of sleep they get when the clock goes back. Let’s discuss what daylight savings is, when it was invented, and why.

What is Daylight Savings Time?

Daylight savings is the practice of advancing the clocks during warmer months so that the darkness falls at a later time. There are two instances where the hours change on the clock. The first is typically the second Sunday in March, where we advance the hour on the clock at 2 AM to get more daylight hours. The second instance is the first Sunday of November when the clocks go back an hour at 2 AM to give us more sleep.

Daylight savings is really for those in the northern hemisphere of the world so that we can get as many daylight hours as we can. But countries like Asia and Africa, and other areas closer to the equator do not observe daylight savings time.

When Was Daylight Savings Invented?

Benjamin Franklin first introduced the idea of daylight savings in 1784 in an essay titled “an Economical Project.” However, New Zealand entomologist, George Hudson, should be credited for the modern concept. In 1895, Hudson reintroduced this practice and proposed a two-hour time shift so that he would have more sunshine hours after work to go bug hunting in the summer.

The United States then adopted this practice in 1918 with the Standard Time Act. This happened during World War I and was a way of saving energy during the war. The idea was that if people had more daylight hours, they would be outside doing things instead of being at home using electricity, thus preserving energy. It was shortly abolished after the war.

It was reintroduced by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1942 when the United States entered World War II and remained in place until 1945. After the second world war, the time change was left up to each state to determine whether or not they would like to set their clocks back. Some states kept it while others abandoned the idea. The Uniform Time Act in 1966 was when daylight savings time officially became law.

The Future of Daylight Savings Time

Earlier this year, the Senate passed the Sunshine Protection Act, which will spring the clock forward an hour permanently. The Senate argues that having permanent daylight savings time can improve everyday activity, improve overall health, and decrease seasonal depression, child obesity, and car accidents. Many states have taken measures to extend daylight savings time, but are waiting on Congress to enact any changes. Studies produced by states like Massachusetts and Maine have proven the positive effects of year-round daylight savings. Should the bill become law, it will not be put into place until November 2023.

Sources: Dan Avery (2022) Why Do We Still Have Daylight Savings?

Source: Kathleen Elkins (2019) When and Why Daylight Savings Started

Source: Anne Buckle (2022) History of Daylight Savings Time

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