Daily savings time ends this Sunday, March 11; so on Saturday night (or very early Sunday morning) everyone should set their clocks ahead one hour. Many (quite reasonably) wonder why we set our clocks back an hour during the fall in the first place. The idea behind it is conserving resources. If everyone gets up an hour later (when it’s lighter) during the winter months we’re supposedly saving energy. Supposedly Benjmain Franklin first proposed daylight saving time (DST) as a way to save candles, but he also suggested waking the public by firing cannons at sunrise, so it's unlikely he was serious.
Fast forward more than a century: in 1905 British businessman William Willett (the great-great grandfather of Coldplay lead singer Chris Martin) was taking his usual early morning horseback ride when he noticed how many people still had their curtains drawn shut. He thought they should be up enjoying the first light of day. Willet published a pamphlet, “The Waste of Daylight,” arguing that clocks be set forward 80 minutes during April. He spent the rest of his life advocating Daylight Savings Time (although he called it “British Summer Time”).
Germany adopted DST in 1916 to conserve fuel for their war effort. The U.S. Congress followed suit in 1918, but it proved to be extremely unpopular and the law was repealed a year later. In 1942 DST was again passed by Congress as a wartime economy measure: it was actually called "War Time" and not daylight saving time. This second DST law mandated the practice would expire six months after the war.
Confusingly states not only kept DST, but it began and ended on different days in different states. Finally in 1966 Congress passed the Uniform Time Act, which required that any state following DST should begin and end it on the same dates.
States and territories can legally opt out of DST (Florida just did), which still creates some confusion. For example, Arizona does not observe DST. But the Navajo Nation, which is in Arizona, does. And the Hopi Nation, which is entirely surrounded by the Navajo Nation, does not.
But does DST really save energy? No one knows for sure. DST may even do more harm than good: rates of car accidents, strokes, and heart attacks increase dramatically in the first days after the March time change. And dairy farmers report DST is bad for their cows. Meanwhile, we all have to get up an hour earlier next Monday.
Thanks, Mr. Willett.