In essence, Daylight Saving Time is modern man's method to save, and therefore seize the day. During the summer months, most areas of the world experience longer daylight hours. The extra sunlight is advantageous in so many ways. For those who work outside, it equals more productivity, for those who work indoors, it equals more opportunity to enjoy the day after work, and for the environment, it equals less fuel needed to be burned to produce electricity. On every level the longer daylight hours benefit the whole of society. The only problem is that those extra hours are in the early morning when most people are still sleeping. To utilize the natural daylight extension, over one quarter of the world moves their clocks forward every spring, and then turns them back in the fall. This is Daylight Saving Time, also known as Summer Time.
The concept was first conceived by Benjamin Franklin. While he was in Paris, Franklin awoke extremely early one morning to find that the sun was already up, but the Parisians were still asleep. In his 1784 essay, "An Economical Project", he noted how many candles they could save if they moved their clocks ahead, therefore taking advantage of the extended daylight.
The idea of Daylight Saving Time died with Franklin, who was an old man at the time of his essay, only to be rediscovered by a London builder. In 1907, William Willett wrote "Waste of Daylight." While traveling in the early morning he noticed that the curtains were pulled on all the homes he passed, although the sun had risen long before. "Now," he says, "if some of the hours of wasted sunlight could be withdrawn from the beginning and added to the end of the day, how many advantages would be gained by all." In his pamphlet Willett proposes moving the clocks forward in twenty minute increments on each Sunday in April, and then reversing the process in September.
Still, Daylight Saving Time wasn't officially implemented until WWI. In April of 1916, Germany and Austria turned their clocks ahead one hour to conserve much needed fuel. Most of Europe immediately adjusted their time as well, as everyone wanted the energy conservation advantage of Daylight Saving Time. Three weeks later Great Britain started using Daylight Saving Time. Australia and Newfoundland were next in 1917, and then the United States passed Daylight Saving Time into law in March of 1918.
In the United States the time change made sense during the war, but wasn't applicable in peace time. This was because, at the beginning of the 20th century most people woke up much earlier than they do today. Daylight Saving Time continued in a handful of states while it was abolished in others until the second World War. From February 9, 1942 until September 30th 1945, President Franklin Roosevelt put "War Time" into effect. It essentially moved the time ahead one hour for the entire year. In Britain, they used Double Summer Time, which meant moving the clocks ahead for two hours in the summer, and one hour in the winter.
Until 1966, Daylight Saving Time once again became an option of the states. This led to confusion as times were different all over the country; Daylight Saving Time would begin at different times. Some areas within a time zone would use it, while others wouldn't. These non-uniform policies were particularly troublesome for the railways, buses, air travel, and radio broadcasters. In 1966 the Uniform Time Act was passed, making the use of Daylight Saving Time uniform. Then in 1973, as energy became a prominent political issue, President Nixon signed the Emergency Daylight Saving Time Energy Conservation Act. Since then, most of the country has been under Daylight Saving Time, although today Arizona, Hawaii, and parts of Indiana are not. In 2005, President Bush passed further legislation, signing the Energy Policy Act, which extended Daylight Saving Time by several weeks.
Today it is still debatable whether Daylight Saving Time conserves that much energy. Studies were done in the 70's, that found that Daylight Saving Time saved about 1% of energy used per day. In 2008, the Department of Energy found that it saves around .5% per day, during Daylight Saving Time, and .03% of electricity consumption for the entire year. While this may not be a substantial sum, most people have grown accustomed to the time shift and appreciate the added daylight. The economics and energy policy behind Daylight Saving Time are logical, the real advantage is the sun. Thanks to Franklin, and Willett, both men of good sense, and others who have supported Daylight Saving Time, we all can have a little more time to enjoy the outdoors, something modern man can certainly use.