Friday, November 6, 2009

Fun Fact Friday - Daylight Savings Time Bugs Me

Lori has been out of town for a few days for work, and in our conversation last night, she related to me a story of both amusement and commiseration. She had to be at the office at 7:30 yesterday morning, so she set the alarm in her hotel room and thought nothing of it. She rose, showered, did those normal morning things like brushing her teeth and the like, got dressed and headed out at 7:05. Only then did she glance at her watch to find the hotel’s clock had not been turned back last weekend.

My friend Mark also gets out of sync (more than normal) for a week or so each Spring and Fall when the time shifts. I have clients in Arizona, which doesn’t observe DST, so I rarely know what time it is when I call them.

Much of the world does NOT observe daylight savings time, especially as we shift to the southern hemisphere. This could make travel even more confusing than normal. (Look! I’m traveling in time! I’ve arrived someplace earlier than when I left! It’s magic!)

Of course, even modern timekeeping is a recent invention. Even when Benjamin Franklin visited Europe in the early 19th century, the practice of changing the length of an hour to accommodate the daylight instead of measuring 24 equal hours was still commonplace. He didn’t invent Daylight Savings Time, as many speculate, he merely postulated that adapting your day to the sun’s natural cycle was a good idea. It wasn’t until people started missing trains later in the century that someone decided ‘hey, we should do something about standardizing time!’
This brings us then to George Vernon Hudson. Not all naturalists had family money or wealthy patrons. George Hudson funded his love of nature with a relatively mundane day job as a postal clerk. As well as providing him with an income, his job involved shift-work, giving him ample time to pursue his twin passions of entomology and astronomy. However, I’m not concerned with the astronomy, since that’s a nighttime pursuit and wouldn’t have necessitated a voluntary time shift.

Hudson was born and educated in London, one of six children and the son of Charles Hudson, a stained-glass artist. George began collecting insects at the age of nine, and started keeping a natural-history diary, devoted almost exclusively to insects, a few years later. One of the most distinctive things about Hudson’s diaries, and later his books, are the beautifully painted illustrations – a skill he learnt at the hand of his father.
In 1881 George, his father, brother and sister left for New Zealand, where they met up with his two older brothers and sister. After living in Nelson he became a cadet in the post office in Wellington on 1 February 1883. His father died in 1884, and by then Hudson had determined to present New Zealand's insect fauna to the general public in the manner of natural science books in Europe. His first book, An Elementary Manual of New Zealand Entomology, was completed when he was just 19 years old. He continued writing and illustrating popular books on New Zealand’s moths, butterflies and beetles throughout his life. Lepidoptera – moths and butterflies – were Hudson’s main interest and, as well as collecting them in the bush-clad hills around Wellington, he bred them at home, to better observe and illustrate their life cycles.

In 1891 George Hudson had bought an acre of land in Messines Road, Karori, where he built a three-roomed house. On 30 December 1893 at St Mary's Church, Karori, he married Florence Woodhead Gillon, a teacher at Wellington Girls' High School. Hudson continued to work at the post office until his retirement in 1919, reaching the position of principal clerk of the postal division.

In 1895, Hudson presented a paper advocating seasonal time adjustment – daylight saving. His idea was initially ridiculed, and it wasn’t until 1927, with political support, it was successfully adopted. Even then, it took more than 30 years for anyone else to think this was a good idea. Really? And somehow, this wasn’t a clue? And social commentary about politicians aside, and for fear of beating a dead horse, REALLY?

In the true style of a gentleman naturalist, Hudson did all his fieldwork in a three-piece suit, complete with watch-chain. Beneath his suit, he wore head-to-toe pink woolen underwear. So we're basically complying with the idea of a crazy person, is what I'm getting at.

In November 1907 he joined a scientific expedition to the subantarctic islands on the Hinemoa and spent 10 days camped on Auckland Island. Sixty-one species of insects were found, and many were described with accompanying colour paintings in volumes edited by Dr Charles Chilton. Hudson's contact with local scientific interests was through participation in the Royal Society of New Zealand and its predecessors. He became a member of the Wellington Philosophical Society in 1885 and was its president in 1900, 1901 and 1940, by which time it had become the Wellington Branch of the Royal Society of New Zealand. He was elected one of the original fellows of the New Zealand Institute in 1919, and was awarded the Hector Memorial Medal and Prize in 1923 and the Hutton Memorial Medal in 1929. He served on the board of governors of the institute from 1923 to 1933 and on the council of its successor, the Royal Society of New Zealand, from 1933 to 1946.

He was critical of the formal education system and wrote outspoken letters to newspapers criticising this and institutionalised science. He provided alternative methods of learning through his books, which required no scientific training to be understood, and by holding regular meetings in his house for young boys eager to find out about insects and astronomy.

George Hudson died at his home on 5 April 1946, survived by his daughter; his wife, Florence, had died in 1935. His achievements place him among New Zealand's distinguished pioneer naturalists. His invention is the bane of civilization twice a year, when we have to adjust everything just so some nut could collect bugs. Really. Think of it, you have to reset all of your clocks, VCR’s, DVD players, microwaves, stoves, watches, cell phones, GPS devices and anything else we’ve come up with to put a clock into TWICE A YEAR to accommodate a dead man’s hobby. When really, we only need to know one time:

A thanks to Rebecca Priestley and George Gibbs, whose brief biographies made this educated rant possible.


Bev said...

I hate the time changes too, and now I have a smug white guy's face to put on my rancor. Thanks, Elliott!

PS) My kid refuses to adjust to the time change and has been getting me up at 4 AM for a week now. I'm a little grouchy, so please forgive me!

Stuart said...

True karma would have been everybody showing up an hour late for George's funeral.

the iNDefatigable mjenks said...

that hat's useless. It's ALWAYS time for chili.

Oh, and you're not alone in hating Daylight Savings Time.

I thought I had another one where I went into the idea in greater detail, but I can't find that post. So, nyeh.

Anonymous said...

Fucking day light savings... the dog doesn't get it... pisses me right the fuck off.

carissajaded said...

Eghhh I hate daylight savings and Now I hate this dude!

haha at Stuart's comment...

It is Friday and I still haven't adjusted. I hate driving home from work in the dark, not being able to walk in the woods after 6, and waking up when it's bright. Thank you for this post... it made me feel a little better.

Happy Hour...Somewhere said...

Elliott, according to an official California energy web site the BIGGEST reason to follow DST is for energy savings. All the greenies of the world should love this. Of course, this is the same government that can't balance a budget to save their souls. It takes me forever to get used to each time change, so I'm no fan of DST.

Be nice and share!

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