On this day in history : 17th May 1916 – The Summer Time Act 1916 is passed in Britain, introducing Daylight-Saving Time….after a campaign by builder William Willett….

William Willett in 1909, photographed by Sir John Benjamin Stone

It is often said Benjamin Franklin, one of the founding fathers of America, first came up with the idea of daylight saving when visiting Paris in 1784…. There could be more than a grain of truth in this as he had joked that if people got up earlier on the lighter mornings then they could save on candles….

English builder, William Willett, obviously thought it a good idea as he campaigned tirelessly for it – publishing a leaflet in 1907 entitled ‘The Waste of Daylight”, in which he encouraged people to rise earlier in the mornings and take advantage…. Being a person who enjoyed the outdoors he liked to go riding early in the morning – and couldn’t help noticing how many people still had their curtains drawn closed…. Also being a keen golfer he would be frequently frustrated at not being able to finish his evening game as dusk had fallen…. However, he wasn’t the first to petition for change….

British born New Zealander, George Vernon Hudson, an entomologist and astronomer, first proposed modern Daylight-Saving Time in 1895…. His work schedule allowed him free time to collect and study insects and so he valued his spare daylight hours…. He presented a paper to Wellington Philosophical Society proposing a two hour shift in the time…. It took New Zealand until 1927 before they finally passed their Summer Time Act….

George Vernon Hudson – Public domain

The British government discussed whether to introduce Daylight-Saving on several occasions…. Willett’s idea had been to make the clocks go forward by 80 minutes in 20 minute increments, on four successive Sundays in April – to be reversed in September…. A serious debate took place in Parliament in 1908 but the idea proved unpopular and so nothing happened….

It was the outbreak of World War I that suddenly made it important to act….due to the need to save coal – Germany had already introduced the idea…. On the 17th of May 1916 the Bill was finally passed – to be put into practice the following Sunday, the 21st of May…. Nowadays the clocks go back one hour on the last Sunday of October and forward on the last Sunday of March…. As for poor William Willett – who was incidentally the great-great-grandfather of Coldplay’s Chris Martin – he never did get to enjoy the benefit, as sadly he died from influenza in 1915….img_3177

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