Not such a long time ago, time was an arbitrary measure decided by each community without consideration of other localities.
In this edition of Radio Curious, we visit with Clark Blaise, author of “Time Lord: Sir Sandford Fleming and the Creation of Standard Time.” Although this program was recorded a long time ago, we aired it for the first time in the last week of 2011, and again in October 2013 as we near standard time.
In the mid 19th century, with the advent of continent-spanning railroads and transatlantic steamers, the myriad of local times became a mind-boggling obstacle and the rational ordering of time to some became an urgent priority for transportation and commerce. Standard Time was established in 1884, leading to an international uniformity for telling time. Arguably, the uniformity of time was a “crowning achievement” of Victorian progressiveness, one of the few innovations of that time to have survived unchanged into the 21st century.
Under the leadership of Sir Sandford Fleming, amid political rancor of delegates from industrializing nations, an agreement was reached to establish the Greenwich Prime Meridian passing through Greenwich, England and the International Date Line that wanders it way through the Pacific Ocean. The 1884 agreement resulted in a uniform system of world-wide time zones that exists today.
I had a good time visiting with Clark Blaise in the spring of 2001 as we discussed how our current notion of time was established. We began when I asked him to explain what standard time is.
This interview with Clark Blaise, author of “Time Lord: Sir Sandford Fleming and the Creation of Standard Time,” was recorded in the spring of 2001 and first broadcast in the last week of 2011.
The book Clark Blaise recommends is “Time of Our Singing,” by Richard Powers.
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