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THIS IS A COLLECTION OF Time Zones tidbits from around the world, combined with a confession of misinformation I offered five decades ago.
When people didn’t travel much, the sun’s position was quite enough to determine noon and thus other accountings of local time. Formally, this is known as solar time and changes by four minutes for every degree of longitude. Twenty-four hours or 24 x 60 = 1440 minutes in a day; 360 degrees of longitude being a complete rotation; thus, 1440 min/360 deg = 4 min/deg.
For example, Bristol, England, is about 2.5 degrees west of London. And thus when it’s solar noon in London, it’s only 11:50 a.m. in Bristol.
An Early Time Post. Back in 1675, King Charles II established the Royal Observatory at Greenwich. Its site in south east London was chosen quite arbitrarily by Sir Christopher Wren (architect and Savilian Professor of Astronomy); the crown already owned property there. This benchmark played a major role in astronomy and navigation, including the 0/360 point of longitude and also GMT (Greenwich Mean Time).
Railway Time and Telegraphy. Along came widely available (and relatively speedy) railway travel, with its necessity of specifying times of departures and arrivals.
Wikipedia notes, “In November 1840, the Great Western Railway started using GMT kept by portable chronometers. This practice was soon followed by other railway companies in Great Britain.… By 1855, 98% of Great Britain’s public clocks were using GMT, but it was not made the island’s legal time until August 2, 1880. Some British clocks from this period have two minute hands, one for the local time and one for GMT.”
Wikipedia continues, “Timekeeping on North American railroads in the 19th century was complex. Each railroad used its own standard time, usually based on the local time of its headquarters or most important terminus, and the railroad’s train schedules were published using its own time. Some junctions served by several railroads had a clock for each railroad, each showing a different time.”
U.S. Time Zones. Time zones in the U.S. went through contortions based upon history (an “Intercolonial Zone”), terrain (the Appalachians), and major railway stations.
Wikipedia notes, “The Standard Time Act of 1918, also known as the Calder Act, was the first United States federal law implementing Standard time and Daylight saving time in the United States. It authorized the Interstate Commerce Commission to define each time.”
Not, however, with controversy and ineptitude. Within a year, the section concerning Daylight saving time was repealed, albeit over President Woodrow Wilson’s veto.
And Section 264 of the act mistakenly included most of Idaho in Central Time; this, despite everyone there recognizing the logic of its being in Mountain Time. Eventually—in 2007—Congress caught up to reality.
My Timely Misinformation. Back when I was teaching mathematics at the College of the Virgin Islands on St. Thomas, I shared a tidbit in Math for Elementary Teachers concerning Lewis Carroll and Queen Victoria: Her Majesty was much delighted by Carroll’s 1865 Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and wrote him requesting a copy of his next book.
Lewis Carroll, though, was pen name for Oxford mathematician Charles Dodgson. And, fulfilling his queen’s wishes, so the story goes, he sent her his next book: a mathematical treatise on time zones.
A lovely tale. But, according to snopes.com, it’s not true. David Mikkelson wrote in March 26, 1999, “Dodgson himself denied the rumor about his purported gift to Queen Victoria in a postscript to the second edition of ‘Symbolic Logic’ in 1896: ‘I take this opportunity of giving what publicity I can to my contradiction of a silly story, which has been going the round of the papers, about my having presented certain books to Her Majesty the Queen. It is so constantly repeated, and is such absolute fiction, that I think it worth while to state, once for all, that it is utterly false in every particular: nothing even resembling it has occurred.”
Nevertheless, as they say, se non è vero, è ben trovato. Even if not true, it’s a good story. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2022