Don't forget to put your clocks forward tonight.
The history of daylight saving time
The idea of summer time or daylight saving time was first suggested in a whimsical article by Benjamin Franklin in 1784, but it was first seriously proposed in in Britain in 1907 by a keen horse-rider, William Willett. Willett published his feelings in "The Waste of Daylight" - he was incensed at the 'waste' of useful daylight first thing in the morning, during summer.
The year after Willett’s death in 1915, Germany adopted daylight saving time. Not to be disadvantaged at a time of war, the UK did the same within a few weeks. Summer time was first defined in an Act of Parliament (the Summer Time Act) in 1916 that stated for a certain period during the year legal time should be one hour in advance of GMT. From 1916 up to the Second World War, clocks were put in advance of GMT by one hour from the spring to the autumn.
Within a few years of its introduction, most countries reasonably north or south of the equator had adopted Daylight Saving Time. However, it has been controversial since the day it was first proposed.
The Second World War, an exceptional time
During the Second World War, British Double Summer Time (two hours in advance of GMT) was temporarily introduced and was used for the period when, normally ordinary summer time would have been in force. During the winter, clocks were kept one hour in advance of GMT to increase productivity.
Mostly business as usual
With the war over, Britain returned to British Summer Time as before except for a brief trial between 1968 and 1971 when the clocks went forward but did not go back. The trial was deemed unsuccessful and abandoned.
The duration of British Summer Time was changed in 1998 to bring the date of the start of summer time into line with that used in the rest of the European Community.