Editorial: Daylight-saving time

Daylight-saving time is touted as an attempt to save energy: Changing the clocks during spring and summer months “moves” an hour of daylight from early morning, when many people are still asleep, to the evening, when people are generally at home and more likely to use artificial lights and other electric appliances.

But why change the clocks at all? Is it really worth having to readjust the body’s internal clock by an hour twice a year? Who came up with this idea anyway, and why?

Benjamin Franklin is often credited with coming up with the idea of what we now call daylight-saving time. As an American delegate in Paris in 1784, Franklin published an essay titled An Economical Project, in which he made the simple argument that natural light is cheaper than artificial light.

What many people either forget or never knew, however, is that Franklin’s essay was written, like much of his work, rather tongue in cheek: It was a joke.

In the essay, Franklin, knowing that Parisians were notorious for sleeping in, wrote that he was awakened by accident at 6 one morning, only to “discover” that the sun was shining at that hour.

This got his scientific brain working, and he calculated that if he had slept until noon, as was usual in Paris, and then stayed awake six hours later in the evening, he would have “wasted” the free daylight and instead would have had to pay for artificial light.

Franklin went on to offer some “regulations” that might aid in an attempt to save money. These included a tax on every window built with shutters, rationing candles, limiting coaches on the streets after sunset, and ringing church bells and firing cannons at sunrise to wake everyone up.

“Oblige a man to rise at four in the morning, and it is probable he will go willingly to bed at eight in the evening,” he wrote.

If going to bed an hour early isn’t inspiration enough to enjoy losing an hour of sleep this Sunday, there is another important daylight-saving tradition you can honor.

Take the time on Sunday to change the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Fire officials recommend doing this every six months.

Change the batteries when you turn those clocks forward, and rest easy until next fall.