Saturday, November 6, 2010

Saving the Daylight Why We Put the Clocks Forward

Weekly Trip to the Library

Before going to bed tonight we turn our clocks back an hour.

Saving the Daylight by David Prerau tells the remarkable story of daylight saving time (summer time) — the intriguing and entertaining tale of our attempt to regulate the sunlight hours. It chronicles how the revolutionary idea of putting the clocks forward originated in Britain and then spread around the world — to be observed today on every continent and by well over a billion people.

Full of funny anecdotes and remarkably quirky individuals, and written by David Prerau, who has been called the world's leading expert on the subject, Saving the Daylight tells the fascinating story behind the movement for DST in Britain, the United States, and throughout the world.

The goal of daylight saving time—to use daylight to its maximum advantage—is generally recognized to be of universal benefit. But few people understand how surprisingly controversial this deceptively simple idea has been.

American statesman and inventor Benjamin Franklin first advocated changing the hours of human activity to make the best use of daylight. But it was an Englishman, William Willett, who had the grand idea of accomplishing this objective by putting the clocks forward for several months each year.

Many luminaries play a part in the story. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was an early endorser of daylight saving time. A young Winston Churchill campaigned vigorously for it. Kaiser Wilhelm first employed it. Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt fought for it. Such proponents of DST have proclaimed its benefits, including saving energy (especially during wars and energy crises), reducing deaths from automobile accidents, providing more daylight for outdoor activities, and many others. But DST also has had many detractors—from Scottish farmers to parents of schoolchildren—who have waged contentious battles against it.

For several months every year, daylight saving time affects a good portion of the world. And yet most people switch their clocks forward and back without ever understanding where the idea came from and without ever realizing that DST affects everything from Mid-East terrorism to the attendance at London music halls, voter turnout to street crime, gardening to the profits of radio stations. Saving the Daylight tells all of these tales and a great deal more.

Have a book you think nannies and au pairs would like? Send your review to Stephanie @ Then, stop by next Saturday for another Weekly Trip to the Library.

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