In a bit of revolt to mentioning the infamous virus once again and following a curious thought about the history of world time zones, we’re headed into a blog about time.
Time Keeping History
In the 19th century the source of a town’s “official” time was based on the perception of high noon on a sunny day. The clock in the town square or the local clockmaker was the arbitrator of the time of day in that town. When visitors arrived, they reset their pocket watches and clock to the local time.
In the mid-19th century when the railroads allowed people and goods to travel between towns and even across country, timekeeping became more important. Schedules were created by each railroad based on the time in their headquarter city or an important point on their way. In order to serve their passengers, independent stations would need a clock showing the time for each railroad.
Credit for the system that was adopted in the United States is also confusing. Based on our research the choices are Canadian Sir Sandford Fleming, William F. Allen, or Charles F. Dowd.
The proposed systems divided the world into 24 times zones, each 15 degrees of longitude apart based on the concept that the earth rotates once every 24 hours and there are 360 degrees of longitude, each hour the earth rotates 1/24 of a circle or 15 degrees.
International Prime Meridian Conference
The International Prime Meridian Conference was held in Washington, D.C. in 1984. Their primary purpose was to standardize time worldwide and choose the prime meridian. The longitude of Greenwich, England was selected as zero degrees longitude was selected by the conference and 24 time zones were established. While not all countries switched time zones immediately, most U.S. states accepted the Eastern, Central, Mountain, and Pacific time zones by 1895. Congress made the use of the time zones mandatory in the Standard Time Act of 1918.
As a side note, Russia – the world’s largest nation in terms of land mass – has 11 time zones. China, the fourth largest country by area, has one time zone as a result of the Communist take over in 1949. The government required the entire country to operate on Beijing Standard Time in national unity.
International Date Line
In addition to the time zones, we were also curious about the International Date Line. Located on the opposite side of the world at 180 degrees longitude from Greenwich Mean Time at zero degrees. Established in 1884, it is a line of demarcation separating two consecutive calendar dates. Cross to the west and it is one day later, cross back to the east and you go back in time to the day before.
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Rosenberg, Matt. "The History and Use of Time Zones." ThoughtCo, Feb. 11, 2020, thoughtco.com/what-are-time-zones-1435358.