artificial lighting, benefits, Benjamin Franklin, booklet, candles, Chislehurst, civil dawn, civil dusk, clocks, daylight saving time, electric lights, England, exercise, Great Britain, Ireland, Kent, lamps, leisure, local time, London, Marylebone Grammar School, national debt, objections, origins, Parliament, Petts Wood, recreation, rifle practice, Royal Astronomical Society, solar time, standard time, sunrise, sunset, The Waste of Daylight, time zones, UK, watches, Whitaker, Willett Building Services, Willett built, William Willett
In this excerpt from my nonfiction ebook, The Great Daylight Saving Time Controversy, I look at how William Willett of the UK first developed the concept of daylight saving time …
In the first decade of the twentieth century, at a time when many countries were coming to grips with standard time and time zones or hadn’t yet introduced them, English builder and fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society, William Willett, was worried people were wasting daylight. Benjamin Franklin had raised the issue over 100 years earlier. Whereas Franklin suggested half jokingly that we get up and go to bed sooner, Willett proposed seriously that we move the clock hands forward. But the world was still in the middle of shifting its clocks from solar or local time to standard time.
After attending Marylebone Grammar School and gaining some commercial experience, Willett worked in his father’s business, Willett Building Services. The pair built houses in the better parts of London, where “Willett built” became synonymous with quality housing. He was always conscious of making the most of natural light in his buildings. At age 48, Willett was riding his horse in Petts Wood near his home at Chislehurst, Kent, south-east of London, early one summer’s morning in 1905. As a builder, he would take notice of the various houses he passed. He saw most of the blinds still shut and an idea for saving daylight occurred to him.
In his spare time over the next couple of years, Willett developed a plan to shift some of the early morning daylight to later in the day, noting the benefits this would bring and any objections he was likely to encounter. He wrote and published a booklet called The Waste of Daylight in July 1907. In it, he expressed concern about the hours of morning daylight not utilised in spring and summer and the lack of daylight at the end of the working day for outdoor leisure activities. He suggested that if some of the sunlight could be transferred from the morning to the evening, the advantages of extra exercise and recreation and the money saved on artificial lighting would accrue to all. He claimed opportunities for rifle practice as a further advantage.
His plan was to put clocks forward 20 minutes each Sunday in April for a total of 80 minutes and then back 20 minutes each Sunday in September. This process of phasing the change in and out, he argued, would mean no one would really notice it, yet people would have the benefit of an hour and 20 minutes extra light late in the day over the summer months. He illustrated how easy the change would be by describing how those travelling east or west by ship changed their watches and quickly forgot about it as they enjoyed other activities.
Willett’s idea seemed sensible, especially with daybreak so early in Britain in summer. Sunrise in London on 21 June was 3:43 a.m. and civil dawn 2:55 a.m., explaining the popularity of blinds and shutters to keep the light out. Under his proposal, sunrise would be just after 5 a.m. At the other end of the day, adding 80 minutes to the sunset time of 8:22 p.m. would push it out to 9:42 p.m. and civil dusk to 10:29 p.m. This would allow people to go to bed at 10 p.m. and not have to use artificial light. Those who retired later would need their electric lights, candles and lamps for up to 80 minutes less than usual.
His booklet included a calculation of total savings his idea could be expected to generate. He assumed the cost of artificial light was a tenth of a penny per head per hour. Under the scheme, the total amount of extra daylight in the evening was 210 hours a year. Using Whitaker’s estimate of the population of Great Britain and Ireland at that time of 43.66 million, gross savings would equate to £3,820,250. He then deducted a third of this “to meet all possible objections, including loss of profit to producers of artificial light”, arriving at net savings of £2,546,833. He claimed “a permanent economy equivalent to a reduction of the National Debt by at least one hundred million pounds sterling”, but didn’t initially elaborate on how he arrived at this figure.
(end of excerpt)
Read how Willett markets his idea and booklet and how he struggles for years to get it through the UK Parliament and into reality. The Great Daylight Saving Time Controversy can be obtained from Amazon, Kobo Books, Apple iTunes and Google Play:
NZ: as per US
Australia: https://books.google.com.au/books?id=kpmbDgAAQBAJ&dq and click on Angus & Robertson