August 10, 2011 - Happy Birthday, William Willett

Re-setting the Clocks
I like to think of William Willett as Mr. Summer Time...

Daylight Savings Time is an idea more than one person has had, over the years. Benjamin Franklin urged people, not to turn back their clocks, but to just get up earlier in the summer. He even satirically suggested that a cannon be blasted off at sunrise in Paris to wake people up in time to enjoy the daylight. In 1895 an entomologist from New Zealand suggested a two-hour daylight-saving shift, and in 1905 today's birthday boy, British builder William Willet, suggested four 20-minute shifts in April, and back in September, to take advantage of longer days and shorter nights.

The actual solution that most of the world ended up adopting, starting in Germany, Britain, and other European nations during World War I, is setting clocks forward one hour in the spring and resetting them back again in the fall. This is called Daylight Savings Time or Summer Time.

Once he proposed his idea for Summer Time, William Willett worked tirelessly to get a law mandating the practice passed. Unfortunately, Willett died the year before it was adopted.

DST is still practiced in the United States (except for Arizona!), most of Canada and Mexico, and most of Europe. It is also practiced in many Mid-East countries, part of Australia, New Zealand, and a few nations in African and South America. However, although most of South America, Central America, and Asia, plus quite a bit of Africa, once observed DST, it is no longer practiced in most of those areas. Daylight Savings Time was never used in central Africa, Saudi Arabia, and Southeast Asia.
Nordkapp, Norway
- the famous "midnight sun"

Let's face it, tropical locales need DST less than do countries with higher latitudes. The higher the latitude, the more dramatically day length changes with the seasons. You might already know that the sun NEVER sets in polar regions during their summers. For example, in parts of Finland the sun does not set for 73 days, and in Svalbard, Norway, there is no sunset from April 19 to August 23 – 126 days! If anyone were to spend a year right smack at the North Pole, she or he would see that the sun is up for fully half the year and then down for the other half!

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