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Who Invented Daylight-Saving Time?

Autumn season time, retro vintage alarm clock in dry fall leaves - daylight saving time concept

The first Sunday in November marks the end of daylight-saving time for the year as we “fall back” to gain an hour. This time change, though adored by late risers like me, is often brought into question every year. Why do we change our clocks in the spring and the fall? And who’s idea was this time change anyways?

Spoiler alert: an entomologist came up with the idea more than 125 years ago!

More Time for Catching Bugs

George Hudson (1867-1946) was a British-born entomologist, though he spent most of his life in New Zealand. His immense interest in insect science led him to curating the largest insect collection in New Zealand, which remains intact there to this day. Though his passions were rooted in entomology, Hudson held a shift-work job during the day, meaning his only times to collect specimens had to be in the mornings before his shifts or in the evenings. During his explorations, Hudson noticed how the daylight hours shifted as the year progressed. This, coupled with his work and collecting schedule, led him to propose a two-hour daylight-saving shift to the Wellington Philosophical Society in 1898: moving the clocks two hours ahead in October, and moving the clocks back two hours in March.

Hudson’s proposal would allow him more after-hours daylight to catch insects throughout the year. As an entomologist myself, I am completely on board with his logic and have no further questions. Others however, namely the New Zealand parliament, were not yet convinced of the benefits of implementing a time shift. Nearly twenty years after Hudson’s daylight-saving idea, William Willet, a British builder, advocated for Hudson’s idea to England’s parliament. Willet was not concerned about the daylight hours needed to collect insects. Rather, Willet believed that shifting clocks to make evenings lighter for longer would allow more time for daylight activities and save significant costs in evening lighting.

Both Hudson and Willet were met with pushbacks when they proposed daylight-saving to their respective governments, yet we now observe daylight-saving time as both of them imagined. The necessity of daylight saving came with the World War I, when rationing resources like electricity and coal was essential. Since then, more than 70 countries across the globe observe some form of daylight-saving time… all thanks to a man in New Zealand who wanted more time for catching bugs.

Just In the Nick of Time

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