I woke up this morning thinking about the hour of sleep that I lost last night. I haven’t spent much time ever really thinking about Daylight Saving Time, but I did this morning. For my whole life, the impact of springing forward has been minimal and temporary. I’m just tired when it happens, that’s all. I get robbed of an hour of sleep in March.
Perhaps the whole idea of Daylight Saving Time was on my mind more than ever before because we just had leap day in February this year too. Corrections to clocks, corrections to calendars…it’s enough to keep you more than a little off balance.
Not thinking straight, I decided to lose another hour today researching the history of Daylight Saving Time in the US. DST was first tried in the US in 1918, as an attempt to conserve energy by prolonging daylight hours each day after work. It didn’t really catch on (and still hasn’t in Arizona, Hawaii, and in three territories) until three years of War Time were instituted during the last years of World War II. Beyond that, there wasn’t a federal law establishing DST until 1966. Our current schedule of 34 weeks of DST, lasting from the second Sunday in March to the first Sunday in November, began in 2007.
I got off on a bit of a tangent when I read that Ben Franklin was only joking when he proposed a daylight saving plan to the citizens of Paris, France in 1784. I’m guilty of teaching my students that the idea for DST was first his. I’ve imagined him coming up with the exact details of the spring forward, fall back plan. I’ve been wrong. He wasn’t really serious. All he did was mention a concept much like DST in a satirical letter that proposed a plan that would amount to great savings in candles for Parisiens.
I started reading more about Ben Franklin and more about changes to clocks and calendars and I stumbled across an item about the change from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar in Great Britain, and in their colonies, in 1752. Over centuries, the Julian calendar was thrown off by its miscalculations of the length of the solar year. By 1752, the calendar was eleven days off, so Parliament passed a law to adopt the calendar authorized by Pope Gregory XIII back in 1582. The wheels of government turn slowly, but the adjustment in time was about to be made.
So, picture this: Ben Franklin fell asleep in his home in Philadelphia on September 2, 1752, and woke up the next morning, on September 14, 1752. Thirty-two years before he jokingly proposed eliminating an hour in the springtime to save candles in Paris, Franklin and his fellow colonists had eleven whole days eliminated from their lives. Apparently, he didn’t mind though, saying, “It is pleasant for an old man to be able to go to bed on September 2nd, and not have to get up until September 14th.”
Could early to bed and really late to rise have made Ben healthy, wealthy, and wise…?