Wonder Contributors

Thanks to Ashlyn from Montana for suggesting we revisit today’s great Wonder question!

Each year, in the wee hours of a Sunday morning in March, 60 minutes vanish from the clock and the time reappears each year in November! No, it’s not a magic trick — it’s Daylight Saving Time!

Daylight Saving Time (or “Summer Time,” as it’s known in many parts of the world) was created to make better use of the long sunlight hours of the summer. By “springing” clocks forward an hour in March, we move an hour of daylight from the morning to the evening. On the first Sunday in November, we “fall back” and rewind our clocks to return to Standard Time.

But where did Daylight Saving Time come from? And how is it useful?

The idea was first suggested in an essay by Benjamin Franklin in 1784, and later proposed to British Parliament by Englishman William Willett 1907. However, it did not become a standard practice in the United States until 1966. Daylight Saving Time was originally instituted in the United States during World War I and World War II in order to take advantage of longer daylight hours and save energy for the war production.

In the years after World War II, individual states and communities decided whether they wanted to continue observing Daylight Saving Time and when to do so. This meant some cities were an hour behind others even though they were only separated by a few miles on a map.

In order to minimize the confusion, Congress passed the Uniform Time Act in 1966, which standardized the length of Daylight Saving Time for the country.

Daylight Saving Time is most helpful to those who live farther from the equator, where daylight hours are much longer in the summer than in the winter. In locations closer to the equator, daylight hours and nighttime hours are nearly the same in length throughout the year.

That’s why many equatorial cities and countries do not participate in Daylight Saving Time. In the United States, there are only a few places that do not observe Daylight Saving Time, including parts of Arizona, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and American Samoa.

There are currently about 70 countries that participate in Daylight Saving Time, though not necessarily on the same schedule as the United States. Determining who recognizes Daylight Saving Time and when can sound like a very complicated math word problem.

In Europe, Daylight Saving Time runs from the last Sunday in March through the first Sunday in October. In the southern hemisphere, where the summer season begins in December, Daylight Saving Time is recognized from December through March. Kyrgyzstan and Iceland observe Daylight Saving Time year-round; equatorial countries do not observe Daylight Saving Time at all.

Advocates in support of Daylight Saving Time suggest that in addition to reducing crime and automobile accidents, extended daylight hours also improve energy conservation by allowing people to use less energy to light their businesses and homes. Opposing studies argue the energy saved during Daylight Saving Time is offset by greater energy use during the darker autumn and winter months.

32 Join the Discussion

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  1. We learned that Benjamin Franklin introduced the idea and eventually the Congress made it official. We were just wondering what year Benjamin Franklin conceived the idea? We did not know that the people in World War I needed more time to prepare for the war.
    We learned a new word, equatorial, which means some place near the equator, and we used background knowledge and context clues to help us.
    We were surprised that some countries do not follow the daylight savings time, including some places in the United States such as HI and AZ. We learned about 70 countries do participate. We also learned we “fall back” the first Sunday of November which is why we were visiting this WONDER today.

    • WOW, Mrs. Caplin’s Class! You guys learned a LOT from exploring this Wonder of the Day®! We’re sure glad you visited today and let us know all the awesome new things you learned! We did a bit more WONDERing about your Benjamin Franklin question, and found several resources that say he came up with the idea for Daylight Savings Time way back in 1784! :-)

    • Thanks for sharing those two great facts about your grandpa, WonderGirl! Please wish him a very happy birthday from your friends in Wonderopolis! :-)

  2. Good article.
    however, we can not change the number of hours of daylight and darkness so any claims associated with daylight and darkness are not credible. It makes no sense to change the clock; if businesses want to change to summer hours then do so but DO NOT change the clock. I grew up on a farm and we got up with the sun and worked until sundown… nothing to do with the clock.

  3. Benjamin Franklin was not the first person to conceive the idea of Daylight Summer time. This statement is misleading. He may of been the first person to bring it up within the US, but the idea was invented by George Vernon Hudson in 1895, he was from New Zealand but his idea was first implemented in Germany and Austria in 1916.

    • Thank you for sharing additional information, Gary! We did some extra digging, and according to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, Englishman William Willett is credited with first proposing the implementation of Daylight Saving Time. We’ve updated the Wonder text to reflect that! We’re really glad you’re WONDERing with us! :)

  4. I was wondering if you have a wonder about soccer or any sport because I love sports and I wanted to check out what you had to say about them! :D

    • Welcome, pie! You do get more time with the sun out – you save daylight time! We are sorry you do not enjoy daylight savings time. Some people prefer the shorter days. That’s what makes us all unique! :)

    • Great question, Owen Morgan! Countries farther away from the equator benefit more from Daylight Saving Time. Some countries close to the equator do not participate in it, as well as a few U.S. cities in the far south. Ireland is part of the continent of Europe, so Daylight Saving Time runs from the last Sunday in March through the first Sunday in October. Keep up the WONDERful WONDERing! :)

    • Hey, kc :p! Thanks for sharing your opinion about Daylight Saving Time. There are many people with differing opinions about Daylight Saving Time. One thing is for sure, it is never fun losing the hour of sleep the first night! :)

  5. To me it makes more sense to just keep the time the way it is now, with more daylight that extends later in the day. If you take into consideration all the physical issues the clock changes do to the body,more heart attacks, sleep deprivation and accidents due to “getting used to” the new time set, I think you would find it is better to just keep it one way or the other or split the difference. Why would we want to continue in this day and age?

    • Hello, Joanne Luce! You make some interesting points. It sounds like you have done a lot of WONDERing on this topic. Thanks for sharing! :)

  6. I learned a lot from this article!! It is so interesting and i didnt know that there are 70 countries that dont participate in Day Light Savings Time!

    • Hello, Macky! Thanks for sharing what you learned with us! There are actually 70 countries that DO PARTICIPATE in Daylight Savings Time. Visit here to see a map of countries that do and do not participate in DST. Keep up the WONDERful thinking! :)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • Why do we change the clocks twice a year?
  • Why do we have Daylight Saving Time?
  • Is Daylight Saving Time observed in the same way around the world?

Wonder Gallery

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Try It Out

Ready to spring forward or fall back? Check out the following activities with a friend or family member:

  • Does your country observe Daylight Saving Time? Wonder which other countries around the world do the same? Check out this map to see which countries observe DST around the world.
  • Plan ahead! If it’s fall where you live and you observe Daylight Saving Time, then you have an extra hour coming your way soon! What will you do with it? We often lament the fact that we don’t have enough hours in the day. Here’s your chance to get an extra hour. How will you make the most of it? Brainstorm a list of clever and fun ideas you could do to take advantage of that extra hour afforded by Daylight Saving Time in the fall. We think we’re going to use ours to think up more Wonders of the Day!
  • While the debate over the value of Daylight Saving Time continues, firefighters around the country are putting it to good use in order to promote a very important message. When you reach for the clock to “spring forward” and “fall back,” remember to reach for your smoke detector, too! Changing the clocks is a great reminder to change your smoke detector batteries as well. It is also a perfect opportunity to review your family’s fire escape plan with your child. Another way to involve your family is by completing a home fire safety inspection together. Visit Sparky the Fire Dog® online for an inspection checklist and learn more about family fire safety together.

Still Wondering

In the America on the Move Interactive Game: Drive Through Time interactive from Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, children use a virtual time machine to explore modes of transportation during four different eras and create a photo album of their trip using period photographs.

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