Falling Back at the End of Daylight Saving Time

November 16, 2018

On Sunday, Nov. 4, daylight saving time ended, as we all had to “fall back” one hour to get back into standard time. It’s been more than a week now of earlier sunrises… and earlier sunsets. On the last day of daylight saving time, the sun rose at 7:37 a.m.; whereas this morning, the sun came up at 6:47 a.m. Likewise, the sun was setting around 6:33 p.m. and tonight, it will set at 5:25 p.m. while many people are still commuting home from work.

So why do we have daylight saving time, and what purpose does it serve? The practice of advancing clocks during summer months began so evening daylight could last longer and people could make better use of the natural light. Proponents say daylight saving time offers a greater increase in daylight hours after the typical “nine to five” workday while decreasing energy consumption. Critics say daylight saving time complicates timekeeping and can disrupt travel, billing, software, record keeping, medical devices, heavy equipment and sleep patterns.

Take Advantage of the Sun

Benjamin Franklin supported the notion of waking up earlier to take advantage of morning sunlight. In 1784, he popularized the old English proverb, “Early to bed, and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” But it was an entomologist from New Zealand named George Hudson “invented” modern daylight saving time by proposing it first in 1895.

In 1907, London builder William Willett led the first serious advocating effort to avoid the “Waste of Daylight” when he proposed advancing clocks 20 minutes on each of four Sundays in April, and then turning them back by the same amount on four Sundays in September. He spent a small fortune lobbying for the effort but died in 1915 before daylight saving time was instituted.

Making it Official

Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada was the first city in the world to enact daylight saving time on July 1, 1908. The German Empire and Austria-Hungary Empire were the first countries to organize the implementation on April 30, 1916. It happened during World War I as a way to conserve coal. Britain, most of its allies, and neutral European countries soon followed, with the United States adopting daylight saving time in 1918.

Many countries have used it at various times over the last 100+ years, especially since the energy crisis of the 1970s. However, it’s important to note that it’s mostly a North American and European thing — Asia and Africa do not currently observe daylight saving time, nor do most countries close to the equator. But, as an example, China observed daylight saving time in 1940–1941 and again from 1986–1991. Russia observed daylight saving time in 1917–1919 and 1981–2010. From 2011–2014, the country stayed in daylight saving time year-round. But then in 2014, they switched to permanent standard time.