Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 26.djvu/157

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THE

 

POPULAR SCIENCE

 

MONTHLY.



DECEMBER, 1884.




THE REFORMATION IN TIME-KEEPING.

By W. F. ALLEN,

ON November 19, 1883, the daily papers of the United States and Canada, from, the Atlantic Ocean to the Rocky Mountains, contained more or less elaborate accounts of the change from local to "standard time" which had been made on the previous day. Comparatively few among the millions of people who read these accounts took the trouble to investigate the actual meaning of the change or the arguments in its favor. It appeared to be the work of practical railway managers, and to be favored by leading scientists. Watch-makers agreed to and aided the change, and few other persons were apparently interested. So the people quietly acquiesced, reset their watches a few minutes faster or slower, and for the most part soon forgot that any but "standard time" had ever been in use.

In the present generation we have become so accustomed to the use of accurate time and the ready means of obtaining it, that we hardly realize how dependent we are upon it. Were it possible to suddenly destroy all clocks and watches in any given center of population among civilized nations, while all other surroundings of modern development remained as before, we can scarcely conceive of the endless confusion that would arise. Only by contemplating the results of such a catastrophe can we fully understand what an important part the knowledge of accurate time plays in our every-day affairs.

Man shares with the inferior animals the knowledge and the use of the simplest and earliest division of time into day and night, and in a more restricted sense into seasons. The division of the day into minor parts has been developed by man as necessity or convenience required. It has not been many years since watches were made with